State-run carrier Air India’s thrice a week Delhi-Tel Aviv non-stop flight will become a daily service shortly, with the airline giving its seal of approval to the proposal, encouraged by 80 per cent and above occupancy rate on the route, sources in the airline said. “The success of the service is a testament to the strengthening of diplomatic ties between India and Israel and growing people to people contact between the two countries. We are working on the last minute details before announcing the increase in frequency to all days from thrice a week,” they said.
The move is part of Air India’s ongoing efforts to reevaluate its route network, increase services to economically viable routes and cut down frequency and withdraw services from some sectors. The airline could soon withdraw flights from a few European destinations with low occupancy and engage its fleet to far east and neighbouring countries that have seen a steady rise in demand, a source said.
Private carriers such as Jet Airways and IndiGo are already firming up plans to fly to more international destinations, while Vistara is poised to announce international services later this year. “In such a scenario, we ought to remain competitive in the market as revenue generation is key to the survival of the airline now,” the source said.
The airline currently has a 17-per cent market share on international routes. Air India’s board of directors is set to meet soon to prepare a revival plan for consideration of the government. The Delhi-Tel Aviv AI 139 flight made its maiden journey on March 22 this year and since then the occupancy rate has gone up from 60 per cent to over 80 to 83 per cent, making it a profitable route for Air India, sources said.
The national carrier has engaged its 256-seater Boeing 787 Dreamliner on this route. What went behind the success of this flight is the shorter route and less time it takes to cover the distance, thanks to Saudi Arabia’s decision to permit Air India to use its airspace to fly over the country, sources said.
Air India covers the distance between New Delhi and Tel Aviv in 7.25 hours, which is 2.10 hours less than the time taken by Israel’s national carrier El Al which operates flight between Mumbai and Tel Aviv. El Al is the only other airline that operates flight service between the two countries. Many Arab and Islamic nations do not recognise Israel and, therefore, disallow airlines from using their airspace for flight services to that country.