SYDNEY: An Air India Dreamliner touched down in Australia yesterday, marking the resumption of direct flights by the carrier after a 16-year gap as it seeks to tap a potentially lucrative market.
Air India’s country manager Ravi Bodade said he was confident of regularly filling the daily services that also go via Melbourne on the 256-seat Boeing 787-880 Dreamliner planes.
“It is a state-of-the-art aircraft, and we have a large Indian diaspora here — there is a huge student community and we are confident of filling up the aircraft,” he said.
No other airlines fly directly between the two countries with Australian flag carrier Qantas halting its unprofitable Sydney-Mumbai service in 2009.
According to Sydney Airport, India has been Australia’s largest unserved market, with 140,000 passengers last year travelling between New Delhi and Sydney via Asian hubs.
Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy said direct flights were essential if Australia was to secure its share of the 50 million Indians expected to be travelling outside their own country by the end of this decade.
“India is one of our fastest-growing inbound markets, particularly among leisure travellers, who have Australia high up on their wish list of international holiday destinations,” he said.
“With Indian arrivals up nearly eight percent so far this year, the demand is clearly there and I have little doubt that Air India’s re-entry into the Australian market will be widely and warmly applauded by both Indian travellers and by tourism operators here in Australia.”
Despite Indian arrivals booming, Qantas, which has an alliance with Jet Airways, said it had no plans to resume a direct service.