Air India Will Start Flying Between London And Newark

Filed Under: Air India

I love a good fifth freedom flight, where an airline from one country operates a flight between two other countries, where they have pick-up rights. These include flights like Cathay Pacific’s New York to Vancouver flight, Singapore Airlines’ New York to Frankfurt flight, SriLankan’s Hong Kong to Bangkok flight, etc.

The London to New York City market is a hyper-competitive one, and it looks like it’s about to see a new entrant.

According to The Times Of India, Air India will start flying between Ahmedabad and London, with a connecting fifth freedom flight to Newark, as of August 15, 2016.


The flight is scheduled to be operated 3x weekly by a Boeing 787-8, featuring 18 business class seats and 238 economy class seats.

The flights between London and Newark will have the following schedule:

AI171 London to Newark departing 12:30PM arriving 3:00PM
AI72 Newark to London departing 12:20AM arriving 12:05PM

This will complement Air India’s existing service to the New York City area, which includes daily nonstop flights between Delhi and New York JFK, as well as daily nonstop flights between Mumbai and Newark.

Presumably a large motivator for Air India operating this additional flight to Newark is that it’s a United hub, so they’ll have the potential for Star Alliance feed.

The flight is now open for bookings, and seems to have one business class award seat available per flight. I suspect we’ll see more award seats become available in the future.

The flight apparently has a strong business case, but why credit the market with something when the prime minister can instead view it as his “gift to the Gujarati community:”

Senior AI officials admit that while there has been a compelling business case for this flight but the “inspiration came from the PM and this flight is Modi’s gift to the huge Gujarati community in UK and US.” AI’s decision comes close on the heels of Modi’s visit to Washington early next month and during his previous visits to US and UK, the PM has announced AI flights to those countries while addressing the Indian diaspora there.

It’s also worth noting that by September Air India will switch to Terminal 2 at London Heathrow, which is the Star Alliance terminal. That will be a huge upgrade over their current setup, especially since passengers can then use the Star Alliance lounge rather than the Air India Lounge, which is not so great.

Air-India-Lounge-London-Heathrow - 16
Air India Lounge London Heathrow

In all honesty, I am sort of excited about Air India launching this route. I recently flew Air India first class from London to Delhi and from Delhi to San Francisco, but I’d love to review their business class as well. In general I really like fifth freedom flights, since it gives you a bit of exotic flair on what could otherwise be a boring flight.

Air-India-First-Class - 12
Air India first class

While introductory fares aren’t great, I suspect over time we’ll see some really attractive fares between Newark and London. Airlines operating fifth freedom flights often have better fares, especially airlines considered to be less desirable. For example, Kuwait Airways operated a London to New York flight for years, and fares were consistently excellent. Actually Kuwait Airways still operates the route, they just don’t have pick-up rights because they refuse to transport passengers with Israeli passports.

Would you consider taking Air India’s flight between London and Newark?

(Tip of the hat to @deovratk)

  1. @Lucky

    So can we hope for some reviews of the Terminal2 lounges sometime after September?

  2. @ No Name — Before that! I’m flying South African Airways from London Heathrow to Johannesburg soon. 🙂

  3. Air India operated this route with local traffic rights for years. Wasn’t aware they’d stopped flying it.

  4. I’m not sure I’d call anything associated with Air India a “good” 5th Freedom flight, your experience not withstanding. I mean, c’mon…let’s be honest here. 😉

  5. Air India flew New York JFK – London Heathrow from 1960 through 2008. When the route launched it was serviced by a Boeing 707. That was later replaced by a 747, and eventually a 777. Air India codeshared on the Kuwait Airways JFK – Heathrow flight.

  6. “because they refuse to transport passengers with Israeli passengers”

    Well, there is only so much storage space as it is for handheld luggage, having to stow an extra passenger would be tough.

  7. Typo – the return is AI172 and according to ITA it departs EWR 10:30pm and arrives LHR 10:15am

  8. You do realize that the relationship between UA and AI isn’t what you think it is? They don’t feed each other much traffic…. 9W is the preferred partner for UA and not AI. AI feeds more to AA and DL than it does to UA. This won’t change given UA’s strong relationship with LH (by who AI is threatened).

  9. What we need is a EY A380 or A350 or B787 Fifth Freedom from JFK to MAN

  10. Yes, since it is operated by a 787, because I love Indian food, and because my experiences on AI 787 biz between Sin-Del have been great so I expect similar. Let’s face it, it is a significant upgrade from the heaps of junk serviced by UA and BA on that route for those living in Jersey who are unwilling to make the time consuming journey to JFK or LGA.

  11. There’s no Star Alliance lounge at Heathrow T2. You have Lufthansa (Business and Senator), Air Canada Maple Leaf, Singapore SilverKris and United Club (and GFC).

    You may be surprised to learn that United is the best of those lounges. Spacious, very practical with every outlet you need to log in, with a huge bar and a vey decent food selection (and apparently excellent showers). For me it just beats the SilverKris.

  12. Sweet–I wonder if the rats will make it all the way to Newark…then again they don’t need anymore.

  13. @me

    Don’t worry, AI B788s don’t have first class. English rats have standards, they fly only EK F.

    Also may I remind you, China still holds the record for number of rats on a plane.

  14. @MT

    That is the sad state of alliances. If AI is good enough for DL and AA, UA not partnering for any reason is a shame. Overall alliance is the loser.

    Unions won’t allow JVs with airlines based in low labor cost countries.

    AI appears to pay around $400 as pass thru to DL/AA , which is way higher than EK pays B6/AS.

    May be AI should do what EK did, partner with B6/AS.

  15. Indian Airlines, the mostly domestic airline in India at one time that merged into AI a few years ago, had a flight IC 171 that crashed while landing in 1976. Perhaps AI should think of another flight number?

  16. i travel by air-india only if it is the last option but 90 percent i am travelling by A380 singapore airlines business class or quatar to NY and london so air-india is my last option if all flights are full which is very rate on paid passengers!..

  17. I am considering booking this flight but can’t seem to find a way to book it. On AI website only return flight returned is AI 171 but start flight is still some other flight via Mumbai or Delhi.

  18. For all the AI haters here, you can’t book AI 172/171 for travel before 20 September, as the flight has been sold out.

  19. A bit late to the game on this thread …..

    AI is offered as a UA Business Saver EWR-LHR on the 788-Dreamliner.

    Is it worth 70K miles to try something new … or will be it utterly disappointing?

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