Delta Claims Mumbai Flights Will Resume This Year: Here’s Why I’m Skeptical

Filed Under: Delta

In May 2018 Delta announced intentions to resume flying to India as of 2019. At the time they said they’d fly to Mumbai, but didn’t reveal many details beyond that, including not revealing the route they’d operate or when exactly it would launch.

When I followed up with Delta earlier this year, I was directed to a few quotes from an Investor Day presentation, which was similarly light on actual details about Delta flights to India.

Well, it looks like this is now officially happening. Supposedly.

Delta launching New York to Mumbai flight

Delta Air Lines has just announced nonstop flights between New York JFK and Mumbai as of December 22, 2019. Delta says that the flight will operate year-round, but interestingly doesn’t state the frequency with which it will operate, which leads me to believe that the flight won’t be daily.

The route will operate with the following schedule:

New York to Mumbai departing 9:15PM arriving 10:50PM (+1 day)
Mumbai to New York departing 12:50AM arriving 6:35AM

Delta CEO Ed Bastian had the following to say regarding the route:

“Delta’s nonstop service between New York and Mumbai is the latest example of our international growth as we strive to connect the world better than any other airline. This route would not be possible without the administration’s ongoing efforts to enforce fair competition in international travel, ensuring that consumers enjoy a wide range of choices as they travel the globe.”

Alrighty then.

What plane will Delta use for their India flight?

Delta intends to use the Boeing 777-200LR for the route, which is their longest range plane. The airline is currently in the process of reconfiguring these planes, and the reconfigured planes feature a total of 296 seats, including 220 economy seats, 48 premium economy seats, and 28 business class seats, which will be the new Delta One Suites.

This planes will also feature high speed Wi-Fi from Gogo.

Why I’m skeptical about Delta’s India plans

Interestingly I’m not sure we’re actually that much further along than in the past, given that:

  • Delta isn’t telling us when the flight will be on sale
  • Delta hasn’t said how many days per week they’ll operate the service
  • Delta originally planned to announce the flight in early 2019, and May doesn’t seem particularly “early” to me
  • This makes me wonder if they’re even committed to launching this route, or if they’re just continuing with the same storyline

With Jet Airways having recently collapsed (which was a Delta partner), and with the current issue with Pakistan airspace (which has even caused United to suspend their India route), this route seems rather unlikely to me.

Keep in mind that Delta once operated nonstop flights between the US and India, if only for a brief period. Delta previously operated flights between New York JFK and Mumbai, starting service in 2006, but discontinued the route in 2008, and shifted operations to serve Mumbai from Amsterdam.

Oil prices were at their peak in 2008, and combined with the recession many ultra long haul flights simply weren’t profitable, and Delta ended that route as well.

Delta’s political posturing can’t be overlooked

177 of the 681 words in the press release are devoted to continuing Delta’s nonsensical battle against the the “big three” Gulf carriers..

Peter Carter, Delta’s Executive Vice President and Chief Legal Officer, is quoted on the perils of subsidies to the American worker:

“Every long-haul route lost or foregone to subsidized Middle East carrier competition costs more than 1,500 American jobs, so we are pleased to bring this route back into service thanks to landmark agreements the Trump administration reached with Qatar and the U.A.E.”

Delta has previously blamed Gulf Carriers for the demise of the India service, never acknowledging oil prices and other economic factors, much less that neither route operated for long enough to truly establish demand and market share.

Bottom line

There’s no denying that Delta is taking the next step towards launching service to India with this announcement. However, I remain skeptical, and I almost feel like they’re just going through the motions here.

Delta is just barely sticking to their timeline, hasn’t said when tickets will go on sale, and isn’t even revealing the frequency of the route.

I’ll be curious to see if the airline really launches this route, or if we see the plans quietly canceled in a few months for “commercial reasons.”

  1. The pakistan airspace is still closed? At this point, I feel like this is more about hurting Indian airlines than security.

  2. @Sachin – Only for some airlines, flights to/from Pakistan are still being operated though.

    @Lucky – United discontinued flying to India? My friend just flew them on Sunday night from Newark. Did this just happen?

  3. I don’t share the skepticism. As a marketer at a Fortune 100, there’s no way we’d draw things out like this if we were just going to about-face. They may well be figuring out the frequency etc; but I’d say the intention to operate is pretty clear.

  4. @Lucky UA suspended the EWR-Delhi route but has still kept the EWR-Mumbai route operating. It obvoiusly doesn’t do a direct flight path and avoids Pakistan’s airspace. Interestingly, it also clearly avoids Iran as well and goes over Iraq and then curves back.

    I see no reason why Delta wouldn’t basically copy UA’s flight path to Mumbai.

  5. Emirates flies to 9 destinations in India multiple times a day and 12 destinations in the US, in some cases multiple flights a day.

    How Delta competes with them is with a single flight between two cities in each country ?! Given how poor domestic connectivity in India is, why would anyone pick Delta unless they were flying specifically from JFK to Mumbai?

  6. Here is the strangest part of the release (per Frequent Business Traveler): “The airline also said that it plans to expand its codeshare with Jet Airways to offer convenient connections to other Indian destinations.” That seems unlikely.

  7. Delta CEO Ed Bastian is also known as a Gujju named Jignesh Patel.

    Look at his actions, definitely Gujju.

  8. I just don’t get what the beef is with the US3 complaining against the ME3. I don’t see other airlines complaining (that loudly anyway). If the US3 feel it’s unfair that the ME3 are supported by their governments, why don’t they become Federal-owned again like they used to be? Oh that’s right, they have shareholders and profits are more important….
    Anyway, regarding this route, I think it’s legit enough, although you are right in pointing out they need good domestic connectivity within India.

  9. Ben lives off hypotheticals. Reality is, UA still flies to India, there has been no statement by DL management that they do plan on putting Indian up for sale (they’ve indicated they plan on serving it, but there has been no indication of some sort of service start). He’s way off kilter here. Sorry Ben, but you don’t deserve your miles here.

  10. @Lucky — I’ve just noticed that in your “About Ben (Lucky)” blurb you say that “He travels about 400,000 miles a year, primarily using miles and points to enhance his first class experiences.” Using the word “enhance” means that you’re travelling in first class anyway – as in a paid ticket. Even if you were using “first class experiences” in the wider sense, it would still mean that you were paying for them but only using miles and points to enhance them. Perhaps you mean something like “have” or “enjoy”.

  11. @Dennis: The US Airlines were never “federally owned.” Yes, prior to deregulation, there were much tighter federal controls over the industry, but the airlines have always been privately owned.

  12. A lot of capacity has disappeared out of the Indian market with the 9W shutdown, so might make sense.
    It especially hits the Skyteam JV because of their 9W partnership.

    AFKL flights from India to AMS/CDG are often fully booked in the upcoming weeks, and a lot of these passengers are connecting beyond AMS/CDG to the US on Delta (codeshared) flights.

  13. Going by the Mumbai-JFK route Delta had back in the day, they didn’t gain market because of the pathetic service they offered compared to any of the big three Gulf carriers. Even today business class on Emirates seems better than the Delta-One suites, let alone Emirates’ first class offering. American/European airlines’ in flight service and lounge amenities still pale in comparison to the gulf offerings. The war on the ‘big three’ is just BS. If I could (wishfully) fly Emirates within the US I certainly would over Delta.

  14. Why not launch SEA – BOM instead? There’s sure to be plenty of demand with all the tech companies in the area, and they wouldn’t have to compete in the crowded New York market.

  15. Speaking of things no one thougth were gonna happen, zimbabwe airways just took delivery of a embraer erj-145lr. Sorry for the off topic and greetings.

  16. @WestCoastguy +1 for Seattle service. They would be competing with Air Canada YVR-DEL which is almost direct.

  17. Let me make it very clear that the Delta’s service and attitude is any day better than any airline in the world, I’ve flown many many airlines but I think Delta staff is the most friendliest amongst the total aircrew

  18. @Sean : “better than any airline in the world”

    jab against UA all you want, but you lose credibility rather quickly with statements like that if you think DL is remotely comparable or competitive to service onboard something like ANA, SQ, or JAL.

  19. Is anyone ready to pay premium $$$ for the service like that for US carriers. We all talk from our experience there no ground for the grudges. Fact remains

  20. Now bookable. Looks to be daily flight, except for the first 2 wednesdays the flight is operating. (Last 2 wednesdays of December).

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