Air India rejigs route network in first step towards one brand umbrella

New Delhi: The Tata Group has started restructuring the route network under the Air India umbrella to prevent in-house competition among the four airlines under the brand.

In the first step towards the strategy, AirAsia India will vacate Delhi-Visakhapatnam and Mumbai-Lucknow routes and Air India will now be the exclusive airline from the Tata stable to operate on the two routes, the airline said today. The total frequency on the route will remain the same, the airline said.

The Delhi-Visakhapatnam route is currently served by budget carrier AirAsia India, low-cost carrier IndiGo and full-service airline Air India. The Mumbai-Lucknow route is currently operated by AirAsia India, low-cost carriers Go FIRST and IndiGo, and full-service carrier Air India.

Similarly, AirAsia India will replace Air India on flights for three stations including Bhubaneswar, Bagdogra and Surat.

AirAsia Bhd exited the Indian budget airline AirAsia India in November 2022, with its majority Indian partner, Tata Group’s Air India, agreeing to acquire the 16.67% stake the Malaysian carrier still owned in AirAsia India for 155.65 crore. As per the plans of the Tata Group, AirAsia India is to be merged with Air India Express in about 12 months and the merged entity will be rebranded as Air India Express.

“The acquisition of Air Asia India, together with the ongoing restructuring and expansion of Air India, accords an unprecedented opportunity to optimise the Group’s flight network. Specifically, it allows us to better match routes with the most appropriate airline business model,” Mr. Campbell Wilson, CEO and MD, Air India said.

The aim is to operate Air India, which is a full-service airline, on metro-to-metro markets and high connectivity routes, he said. The low-cost airline, which will be the consolidated Air India Express, will focus on leisure oriented or price-sensitive markets, he added.

“This will improve our attractiveness to corporate travellers and leisure travellers alike, as well as improve connectivity between key domestic cities and Air India’s fast-expanding international network,” Wilson said.

Additionally, Air India will also increase flights from Delhi and/or Mumbai to Cochin, Trivandrum, Visakhapatnam and Nagpur. Air India will also increase frequencies between Delhi and Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru, and between Mumbai to Chennai, Kolkata and Bengaluru. The changes in the schedule are set to commence from 13 February.

Air India completed one year under the Tata Group on 27 January. The Tata Group had acquired 100% stake in Air India and Air India Express under a government-led strategic divestment programme. In November, the group also announced that Vistara, a 51:49 joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, will be merged with Air India; Singapore Airlines is to hold 25.1% stake in the merged entity.

The company has also implemented a five-year plan called Vihaan to capture a 30% share in the domestic and international markets. As part of the plan, the carrier also aims to focus on growing both its network and fleet, revamping its customer proposition, reliability and on-time performance, technology, sustainability, and innovation and wants to invest in the best talent in the industry.

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