The COVID-19 pandemic has been a challenging period for the global aviation industry to navigate its course through, and it still continues to do so. While most in the industry continued to successfully maintain balance sheets, some had to shut their business forever.

The pandemic forced the global aviation industry to adapt to rapidly evolving situations across the globe, which also has led to a number of airlines, innovating their business models, international networks, by exploring various new products and routes respectively.

For some of the most prominent airlines across the globe, Amritsar was not also an experimental destination for them, but an opportunity. The opportunity to discover the highly potential underserved international market of Amritsar.

Amritsar Tops UK & Canada Repatriation

When India was in complete nationwide lockdown in April-May 2020, British Airways and Qatar Airways operated over 28 non-stop repatriation flights from Amritsar to London, repatriating over 8,271 UK citizens. These figures represent over 50% of the total repatriation flights and citizens repatriated from India by the UK Government.

During the same time period, Qatar Airways operated a total of 25 repatriation flights from Amritsar to Toronto & Vancouver in Canada, repatriating 7,516 Canadian citizens, for the Canadian Government, which were as well highest from India.

Amritsar’s Hold Over India’s Direct Connectivity With Italy

While the Amritsar’s markets of the UK and Canada have been evident for decades, Amritsar has now also proven to be the most demanded destination for a pretty old European market; Italy.

Yes, you read that correct. It isn't Delhi, Mumbai or Bengaluru, but Amritsar has emerged to be the most demanded destination in India for the European nation of Italy.

Today, and for more than a year now, Amritsar is the only city in India, which has direct connectivity with Rome & Milan in Italy. You probably would be wondering how it happened? Why not Delhi?

map (1) (1).gif

Direct Connectivity Ended The Traffic Leakage

For a quick outlook of this market, the European nation, Italy has one of the largest Indian diasporas settled, with the Punjabi diaspora being the most dominant. There are over about 2,50,000 Punjabi’s residing across Italy, mainly in the regions of Rome, Milan & Verona. This makes a large Visiting Friends and Relatives (VFR) market between Amritsar and Italy.

In September 2020, one of the first charter flights operated by an Indian carrier departed Amritsar for Italy, and ever since then there have been over more than 500 special charter flights operated between Amritsar and Rome & Milan in Italy, till date.

According to the data collected by FlyAmritsar Initiative, from September 2020 to April 2021, a total of about 38,000 passengers travelled between these routes. This was despite the fact that only one-way traffic on Amritsar-Italy routes were permitted to travel in the initial months of these charter flights.

In May 2021, The Government Of Italy had imposed a complete ban on all direct international flights from India, which led to suspension of these charter flights as well. This ban by Italy was finally relaxed in August 2021, after which these charter flights between Amritsar and Italy were resumed as well. The demand for these routes from Amritsar was even higher now.

The continuous success of charter on these routes to Italy, eventually ended Punjab’s Italy traffic leakage to Delhi. This probably even made Air India to reroute its non-stop Delhi-Rome flights as Delhi-Amritsar-Rome in February 2021.

This could probably give an idea that not just Italy but overall, how much Punjab’s international traffic is being leaked to Delhi and other major airports in India, due to non-strategic development of the industry in the state.

Amritsar Most Popular Connection Destination

map (1).gif

Pre-Pandemic, a number of carriers including Uzbekistan Airways and Qatar Airways, were serving considerable share of Amritsar’s Italy market, while a large share was captured by Delhi as well. According to the data by OAG analyser, Amritsar-Milan route was Air India's top 11th one-way connection via Delhi in the year 2015, with over 7,300 passengers.

If it wasn’t the COVID-19 pandemic, the market between Amritsar and Italy, with this kind of huge potential, may never have been proven at all. A number of Indian carriers including IndiGo as well as SpiceJet has been operating on these routes, with the latter now the king of this market.

SpiceJet Rules The Market

The Indian Low-Cost Carrier, SpiceJet is at present ruling the market between Amritsar and Italy, by operating the majority of these charters to date, and with multiple charter flights a week being scheduled in the upcoming months as well. Interestingly, these are being done, even with the international air travel demand once again taking a downturn due to the sudden surge of COVID-19 disease across the globe.

While at present the airline does not have any wide-body aircraft in its fleet, the airline, previous year at first has been operating its charters with its wet-leased A321ceo aircraft from HiFly Airlines but soon upgraded the equipment on these routes to HiFly’s A330neo, in early 2021.

At present, the airline is operating on these routes with its wet-leased Boeing 767 aircraft from EuroAtlantic Airways. Along with SpiceJet, the Italian carrier, Neos Airlines is, at present, also operating charter flights between Amritsar and Italy for another operator.

Future Opportunities For Indian Carriers

While at present Amritsar is not the Point Of Call (POC) included in the Bilateral Air Service Agreements between India and Italy, for Italian carriers, a number of Indian carriers could potentially serve these routes to Italy from Amritsar, with scheduled services in the near future.

In the previous months, it was reported that SpiceJet would be taking the delivery of over 2 Boeing 777 aircrafts from Boeing, in return for its compensation of Boeing 737 Max 8 aircrafts, which had been grounded for nearly over 2 years in India, over safety concerns.

There is a strong possibility that, if the airline takes delivery of these aircrafts, the airline could potentially launch non-stop scheduled services between Amritsar and Rome & Milan in Italy, while also considering Amritsar’s North American market in the near future.

The Indian Full-Service Carrier, Vistara could be another potential candidate for this ever-developing market. The airline could potentially evaluate this market for its future network development across Europe from India.

One of the advantages, the airline would be having on Amritsar-Rome route is that, with strategic planning with its codeshare partner, Air Canada, which at present operates non-stop flights between Toronto, Canada and Rome, Italy, along with serving the Italy travel demand, could also serve a considerable share of Amritsar’s huge Canadian market, which at present is completely dependent upon Delhi

Add a Comment