LONDON – Air India has this week inaugurated the only direct link between London and Amritsar services.

London Stansted Airport has said that this new route is the “latest step towards more long-haul services from London Stansted”.

The inaugurated service will operate on a thrice-weekly basis, operated by its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner, offering 18 seats in Business in a 2-2-2 configuration as well as 238 seats in Economy on a 3-3-3 configuration.

The aircraft that was sent in for the inauguration had a special paint scheme on-board to mark the 550th anniversary of Guru Nanak Dev ji’s birth, who was the founder of the Sikh religion.

Commenting on the news was Ken O’Toole, the CEO of London Stansted who emphasised why this route is great news for Stansted.

“We are delighted to welcome Air India to London Stansted for the launch of our first-ever scheduled service to India, and the only direct link between any London airport and Amritsar.”

“This service is a great addition to our long-haul offer and a clear reflection of the huge demand that exists across North and East London and the East of England for convenient and affordable connections to India.”

O’Toole also highlighted the clear ambitions for the airport, which mainly reflect about boosting its long-haul takings.

“We have made clear our ambition is to provide passengers with more choice and opportunities to travel long-haul from London Stansted, including services to India as well as direct flights to the USA and China in particular.”

“Delivering this new exciting new service with Air India is another significant step in the right direction in meeting our goal”, he added.

Also commenting on the news was Aruna Goplakrishnan, the Executive Director for Air India who emphasised the benefits of this new route.

“India has always been an important and popular destination for not only the Indian Diaspora in the UK but also for UK residents, both for tourism, pilgrimage and business interests. London Stansted is positioned at the heart of the UK’s Innovation Corridor, adjoining the popular cities of London and Cambridge, which is home to many world-leading universities, research and development organisations, technology, life sciences and technology companies.”

“The new route will facilitate major business opportunities in both countries and will further boost business and trade and invite investment building upon the growing business base. Furthermore, this flight will also be in great demand for the Sikh community in London, and perhaps as far away as the East Midlands, wishing to make a pilgrimage to Amritsar’s Golden Temple and elsewhere.”

Air India Boosting Routes, Financials Getting Any Better?

It all may seem a little bizarre that Air India is still launching new routes considering its current financial situations, similar to that of Jet Airways.

Back in September 2019, it was reported that the carrier had made a net loss of 8,400 Indian Crores, translated to around US$1.187 billion, with the carrier making revenues of 26,400 Indian Crores.

Back in its home country, investors are signing an expression of interest for government divestment in the airline, which could mean more money being lost on the way.

This is to make way for the process of privatising the airline, with the Indian Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri mentioning that this process is already on the way.

The government is taking a different tact towards the sale due to last year’s failed attempt in finding a buyer.

This was due to investors not wanting the government to hold 24% of the carrier.

Now, the Indian Government has agreed to release all of its stakes pertinent to the carrier in order to encourage a sale.

The expression of interest is expected to be finalised by the end of November.

It, therefore, seems that Air India seems to be on the up and that it can afford to make these route launches, especially if private investment appears to be on the way by year-end.