Aviation News

Atlanta Airport wants nonstop flights to India

Atlanta Airport has expressed an interest to start nonstop flights to India. Officials from Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport met industry leaders in India last month to discuss, among other things, starting nonstop flights from Atlanta to India.

Nonstop to India

Officials from Atlanta Airport last month visited India to discuss trade opportunities and possibly having nonstop flights to Atlanta from India.

The four-day India Aerospace Mission, led by the US International Trade Administration, was attended by Atlanta airport’s General Manager Balram Bheodari, Deputy General Manager and Chief Commercial Officer J’Aimeka Farrell, and International Affairs Director Alrene Barr, who joined 15 organizations visited the Indian cities of Delhi and Hyderabad.

The visit included the officials meeting several people from the industry. Officials from GMR Group, which runs international airports such as Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and Hyderabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International Airport, as well as executive leaders for several India-based airlines, met with Atlanta Airport officials to discuss mutual growth opportunities.

Atlanta has been largely ignored

Atlanta is home of more than 1,00,000 Indian-origin people. Despite that, there is not a single nonstop flight to India from the city.

Many U.S. cities are linked to India with nonstop flights. These include major aviation hubs such as New York, Newark, Washington DC, San Francisco, Chicago etc. However, Atlanta has not had the same luck.

In November 2008, Delta started a nonstop flight between Atlanta and Mumbai but the airline pulled out the route just six months later. At that time, Delta Airlines stated that the decision to stop the service was due to low passenger demand and the “illegally subsidized Middle East carriers” that plagued the carrier’s competition and made operations almost impossible against far lower prices. When Delta returned to India in 2019, it launched nonstop flights between New York-JFK and Mumbai rather than Atlanta. Could this be the reason that airlines have stayed away from introducing nonstop flights between India and Atlanta or could it be that it is just impossible to sustain on a Atlanta-India route?

One thing that has certainly changed from 2008 is the demand. Traffic between India and United States has increased many fold over the last few years. Also, the demand for nonstop flights has increased since the COVID-19 pandemic. Operating ultra-long haul flights is not so challenging now with the arrival of fuel-efficient aircraft such as Airbus A350 and Boeing B787 Dreamliner.

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Presently, only three airlines operate nonstop flights between India and the United States – Air India, United and American Airlines.

American Airlines is operating only a daily flight between Delhi and New York-JFK. United has had to scale back its network due to Russian airspace closure, resulting in the suspension (perhaps temporarily) of San Francisco-Delhi and Newark-Mumbai routes.

Air India is offering the most flights currently between the two countries presently. Cherry on top of the cake is that the airline is offering some of the shortest nonstop flights to United States given that it has the permission to use Russian airspace.

With Air India now in the hands of Tata Group, it has entered a transformation phase which includes expanding international presence. Air India is taking advantage of the geopolitical issues that its competitors are facing right now by launching Mumbai-San Francisco flights and re-launching Bengaluru-San Francisco flights.

With rumours of Air India buying Airbus A350 aircraft, it seems the only airline which can look at starting nonstop flights between Atlanta and India, given that US-based carriers may face the “Russian airspace closure problem” longer than previously thought.

Perhaps the meeting of Atlanta Airport officials with industry leaders in India can act as a catalyst to start nonstop flights to India sooner rather than later.

One thing that Atlanta Airport could certainly do to attract airlines to start nonstop flights to India is offer incentives to airlines for a particular number of years so that airlines have enough time to build a market so that it can be sustainable in the long run.

Featured image by Conde Nast Traveller

What do you think of Atlanta Airport’s request for nonstop flights to India? Do you think we can see nonstop flights between Atlanta and India in the near future? Let me know in the comments section below.

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2 replies on “Atlanta Airport wants nonstop flights to India”

Instead Atlanta any middle east airline can start fying 3-4 weekly route from Charlotte. Charlotte has only lufthansa (MUC) three times a week and American (LHR, MUC).
Charlotte is in center from Columbia, Raleigh and Ashville while has close to 100000 Indian continent population.
Only downside with air India is that their service and also no domestic connection in USA. We have to purchase separate tkt of domestic us carrier to fly to international and then to have air India and that’s awful.

The thing with Atlanta, which I feel, is that it is only a Delta hub which has not been able to grow that much internationally as compared to other major cities such as New York, Los Angeles or San Francisco.
Qatar currently flies to Atlanta, giving opportunity for travellers to connect anywhere in the world. Neither Emirates nor Etihad currently fly to Atlanta so the connection opportunities via the Middle East are limited.
On the other hand, as you said, any Middle Eastern airline should start flying to Charlotte. Frankly, I don’t see any advantage there. If a airline is not serving a major U.S. aviation hub like Atlanta, then we can not expect it to start service to Charlotte. But then again, as they say, anything can happen in aviation.

Regarding Air India, it’s true that its service is not that great as compared to its rival airlines. But let’s be honest here. Air India is currently having no direct competition between India and the United States (other than on 1 or 2 routes) and it may be having good load factors that’s why it’s running such a large schedule between the two countries. No airline would run so many long-haul and ultra long-haul flights if it may not be getting enough loads. And now that the airline is in the hands of Tata group, we can expect the service and the hard product to become better overtime.

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