Monday, February 22, 2016

Good prospect for Air India's Delhi-Vienna flight

by Soumen Mukherjee

The national carrier Air India announced on 19 February 2016 that it will operate 3 weekly flights to the Austrian capital Vienna from its Delhi hub effective from 6 April 2016. Vienna to become Air India's eighth European destination from April 2016 and like most of its European flights Air India will operate a post mid-day departure from Delhi with early evening arrival at Vienna and late evening departure from Vienna with morning arrival at Delhi. It will deploy its 256 seats Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner on the route. Air India will replace fellow Star Alliance member Austrian Airlines on the Delhi-Vienna route which currently operates 5 weekly flights using Boeing 767-300ER; Austrian is schedule to withdraw its service at the same time and will operate the last flight on 4 April 2016 (Delhi departure). In a reply to my query of reasons behind the sudden withdrawal decision, Austrian Airlines says that it is withdrawing from the Delhi market as it no longer remains profitable for them because of over capacity on the market leading to intense competition on pricing. But it is also believed that Austrian Airlines is withdrawing from Delhi route in favor of its scheduled service resumption to Shanghai. It is resuming Vienna-Shanghai service from 4 April 2016 and to deploy the same aircraft as it is having a shortage of wide-body aircraft needed for inter-continental long-haul flights. Till 31 March 2015, Tyrolean Airways used to operate Vienna-Delhi route along all other Austrian destinations on behalf of routes Austrian Airlines. It is only 1 April 2015 when Austrian Airlines resumed operations under its own brand. Austrian has already sold thousands of tickets on Vienna-Delhi and Delhi-Vienna routes till December 2016 as it was scheduled to operate those flights itself, now those pre-booked passengers will be accommodated in the Air India flight with possible alteration of travel dates as AI's upcoming service will be 3 weekly against the current daily service by Austrian.
"Austrian Airlines will terminate flight service to Delhi starting on April 4, 2016. The flights are no longer profitable in light of the fact that surplus capacities have led to tough price competition. For this reason, Lufthansa is bundling its Group offering to India in order to ensure improved capacity utilization." Austrian
At present, Austrian Airlines operates Vienna-Delhi-Vienna flights on Boeing 767-300ER and it has dual configuration on its fleet of 6 Boeing 763 leading to 214 (J:36-Y:178) and 225 (J:26-Y:199) total seats. On Vienna-Delhi route Austrian deploys aircraft configured with any of the two combinations, therefore flies 1095 weekly seats on an average. While Air India to deploy its 256 seats (J:18-Y:238) Boeing 787-8 on Delhi-Vienna route, offering 768 weekly seats (one way). This leads to a sharp 42% capacity reduction on the sector in summer 2016 schedule. In 2015, Austrian carried total 1,14,409 passengers on Vienna-Delhi-Vienna sector that leads to above 80% loads on the route. Therefore it indicates a good prospect for Air India's 3 weekly flights. Later it can indeed increase the frequency as well after studying the market dynamics well, a lesson Air India learned from its Moscow service launch in 2014 where it could not sustain its initial capacity and forced to reduce frequency on the route. It is encouraging that more than 1.1 lakh passengers traveled on Delhi-Vienna-Delhi route in 2015 but Air India not going to be so lucky to get all those passengers for its own service as a significant numbers of those 1.14 lakh passengers are actually transfer passengers to Austrian's European network with convenient connections. Although the appeal of Austrian's North American network is limited as it involves more than 4 hr 30 min transit time in Vienna in both India-US and US-India routes. However there is indeed a good prospect for Air India's service on Delhi-Vienna route with O&D traffic itself and of course some support from the connections to its own Asian network and possible code-shared flights on Austrian's European network.

Pax on Vienna-Delhi
Pax on Delhi Vienna
 2015 Grand total

Air India is currently working out a code-share agreement with its Star Alliance partner Austrian Airways on 25 European routes beyond Vienna. But if one looks at the AI's proposed schedule closely, its Delhi-Vienna flight will reach Vienna at 18:45 and there will be only limited connections to secondary European cities like Berlin, Copenhagen, Oslo, Prague, Stockholm, Warsaw and others with travelers reaching the final destinations at pretty late hours according to European standards. Therefore it will be interesting to see patronage of such connections beyond Vienna. In fact in some of those routes there are only one-way connections available on Austrian network, say VIE-XXX of DEL-VIE-XXX available with convenient transit time while XXX-VIE of XXX-VIE-DEL not available in the evening hours and vice versa. And since there are already point to point services available from Delhi Airport to major cities in continental Europe like Frankfurt, Milan, Moscow, Munich, Helsinki, Paris, Rome, Zurich. 

Flight No.
Origin: Departure
Destination: Arrival
AI 135
Delhi: 14:00
Vienna: 18:45
AI 136
Vienna: 22:45
Delhi: 09:25+1
On Air India's part, travelers on Vienna-Delhi flight are offered onward connection to Bangkok, Colombo, Kathmandu and Sydney on its network. 
Bangkok: Out of 4 destinations, Austrian operates daily flights to Bangkok-Suvarnabhumi Airport while another Star Alliance member EVA Air operates 4 weekly flights on Vienna-Bangkok route as part of its Vienna-Bangkok-Taipei service. Since the route is already well served with non-stop flights therefore we are not even discussing the appeal of Air India's one-stop Vienna-Bangkok flight via Delhi. 
Colombo: Austrian also serves Colombo with weekly flight but it is withdrawing from Colombo as well in late March 2016, Air India is able to provide good competitive two way connection to Vienna from Colombo via Delhi. While Emirates takes 13 hr 05 min flight with 2 hr 55 min transit time in Dubai, Air India offers 13 hr 55 min flight with 1 hr 55 min transit time in Delhi on Colombo-Vienna route. 
Kathmandu: Air India must tap the European tourists/trekkers flow to Nepal with convenient 2 way connections to Kathmandu via Delhi. While Turkish Airlines takes 12 hr 35 min flight with 2 hr 15 min transit time in Istanbul, Air India offers 13 hr flight with 2 hr 45 min transit time in Delhi on Kathmandu-Vienna route. 

Sydney: While Air India offers one of the competitive connection on Vienna-Delhi-Sydney route on all 3 days, it can't offer convenient connection on Sydney-Delhi-Vienna return leg. While Emirates takes 22 hr 50 min flight with 3 hr 30 min transit time in Dubai, Air India offers 23 hr 25 min flight with 3 hr 50 min transit time in Delhi on Vienna-Sydney route. But without good return connection the appeal of Air India's Austrian (European)-Australian routes is much less and it remains a challenge for Air India's network planning team. It is expected that Air India to increase its Austrian service to 5 weekly flights to both Melbourne and Sydney by 2016 end. Then it will be able to provide connections to Melbourne as well but the issue of return connection will remain so.


  1. It would be nice to see a DEL-SYD/MEL-BOM-SYD/MEL-DEL flight just like they do with BKK to connect on both directions. That would make DEL very attractive for Europe- Australia - Europe traffic. Similar with HongKong and Singapore.

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