Qantas has a busy international route map in Asia, reaching all of the most popular destinations. However, there is one notable absence. The Australian flag carrier has no direct flights to India, a massive market. As the pandemic shakes up the market, India could be the perfect fit for Qantas.
Why it works
India is the fastest-growing aviation market globally, with traffic expected to double in less than two decades. Notably, the number of Indians in the middle class could hit nearly one billion by 2038, making the country a prime target for airlines globally. As the economy grows and more passengers are willing to pay higher fares, Qantas can sense an opportunity in the Indian market.
In a statement in Executive Traveller, Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said that it is only a matter of time until the airline comes to India. He adds that the growing economy and strong ties between the two countries could set up a sustainable service. However, there are some issues Qantas has historically faced in India.
The reason Qantas has stayed out of India since 2012 is largely due to low volumes. Demand from India is spread across several cities in different parts of the country (Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Chennai, etc.), making it difficult for airlines to sustain direct services from one city.
Instead, passengers prefer to take one-stop international services with airlines like Singapore Airlines (which dominates the market), Cathay Pacific, and others. Like flights to Europe and the US, these hub airlines can offer lower fares and connections to multiple Indian cities. Combined with India’s highly price-sensitive market, direct connections have struggled historically.
Laying the groundwork
Throughout 2020, Qantas has been flying a series of repatriation flights to bring home stranded Aussies. Data shows that the most pending return requests originate from the UK and India, making them important repatriation destinations. Hence, Qantas has flown several direct flights to Delhi in the last few months, with more planned this year.
While the Delhi repatriation flights were flown using a Boeing 787-9, it is possible to reach India with the A330 as well. For instance, flights from Bangalore to Sydney, Perth to Delhi and Mumbai could be flown by the A330-200. However, the most popular routes like Delhi and Mumbai to Sydney or Melbourne need the 787-9.
While repatriation flights might not mean a permanent service is coming, it does show that demand exists in the region. Qantas wouldn’t be the first airline to challenge its hub-and-spoke competitors in India, with US carriers also returning to the country.
For now, Air India will likely remain the only direct option to Australia for the foreseeable future. However, we will keep our eye out for when Qantas decides the time is right for services to India.
What do you think about Qantas flying to India? Could it sustain demand and turn a profit? Where should the fly from? Let us know in the comments!