US carrier Delta has announced a non-stop flight between New York and Mumbai from December 22 and Air India is considering a second service between Delhi and New York in the winter schedule giving passengers more direct travel options.
Currently, Air India and United operate non-stop flights between India and the US and the route is dominated by carriers from West Asia and Europe which control over 70 per cent market share. Over five million passengers flew between the two countries in FY 2019.
Air India operates 33 weekly flights to the US and is planning to expand its service. "Our US routes are doing well and we are considering a second service between Delhi-New York from October," Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani said.
"Delta's non-stop service between New York and Mumbai is the latest example of our international growth as we strive to connect the world better than any other airline," the airline's chief executive officer Ed Bastain said in a statement. Delta will operate a Boeing 777-200 LR aircraft with a three-class configuration (business, premium economy and economy) on the route and will offer passengers wi-fi connectivity and free mobile messaging.
Delta, which has been targeting Gulf carriers for unfair government subsidies, said the new service to India would not have been possible without US government efforts to ensure free competition. Airlines from West Asia control around 40 per cent of India-US traffic. Delta stopped flying to India in 2009, three years after launching its service.
Delta has a strong commercial partnership with Jet Airways, which suspended operations last month, and the latter's grounding has created capacity reduction on westbound routes from India. "The decision to start non-stop service to India appears to have been further strengthened post Jet Airways shutdown," said Kapil Kaul, South Asia CEO of aviation consultancy CAPA. Jet flew to London, Paris and Amsterdam offering onward connections to the US on Delta and Air France-KLM. On Mumbai-London route alone Jet had over 50 per cent of the capacity.
Airlines are also cashing in on the rise in demand. United has already announced a winter seasonal service between San Francisco and Delhi from December 5.
"We are excited about the prospects of growth opportunities in the India-US market. This market has grown nearly 60 per cent in the last ten years and is one of US's largest international travel markets with over 7,000 passengers each day travelling between two countries," Delta said in a statement.