What’s Going On With Delta’s Flight To India?

Last May Delta announced that they’d start flying to India as of 2019. They said they’d fly to Mumbai, though didn’t reveal out of which hub they’d operate the flight, and also didn’t give a more exact timeline of when the flight would start.

The timing of this announcement was significant

Usually when an airline announces a new destination they reveal a start date, the route they plan to operate, etc. In the case of Delta they basically just said “we’re flying to Mumbai” in 2019.

This was no coincidence. This announcement came just shortly after the US and UAE wrapped up negotiations related to their Open Skies agreement. The conclusion from these negotiations was that it was basically business as usual (which is a win for the Gulf carriers and a loss for the “big three” US airlines), but given how much money and effort Delta funneled into this, they wanted to make the resolution look like a win for them.

As Delta CEO Ed Bastian said at the time:

“It is exciting to be able to announce Delta’s return to India from the U.S. as part of our vision to expand Delta’s reach internationally. We are thankful to the president for taking real action to enforce our Open Skies trade deals, which made this new service possible. We are looking forward to providing customers in the U.S. and India with Delta’s famously reliable, customer-focused service operated by the best employees in the industry.”

The irony here is that absolutely nothing has changed when it comes to the service that Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar offered to the US. Nada.

Delta is in a better position to operate flights to India

While Delta claimed that this agreement between the US and UAE allowed them operate this route (keep in mind United has been flying to India all along), in reality there are two factors that put them in a better position to fly to India than before:

  • The airline now flies fuel efficient A350s, which are the right type of plane to operate this route
  • Delta has a fairly new partnership with Jet Airways, which means that they’ll have connections in Mumbai, which will help the performance of this flight

What’s the latest on Delta’s India route?

We’re now less than 11 months from the end of the year, so airline schedules are already open through early 2020. While airlines don’t always announce flights that far in advance, for a brand new and risky route Delta will want as much lead time as possible to make this route profitable.

So I reached out to Delta to ask what the latest is on this flight to India, and they pointed me to Ed Bastian’s Q&A from their 2019 Investor Day in December, and said that the statements there are still accurate.

An analyst asked the following:

And more recently I think it looks like that at least one of them seems to be at least violating the spirit of that agreement. Is that the reason why maybe you have put off the announcement of an India service? Would it work or not?

Ed Bastian responded with the following:

No. We’re anticipating the launch the latter part of 2019. So, it’d be premature to announce a year in advance of when we actually start physically flying it. So, it will be announced in the first part of 2019. So, it’s coming soon. And you’re right, one of the areas out of Qatar is cheating through Air Italy and we’ve drawn the full attention of our government officials as well as Alitalia which is one of our partners needing to look at it from a local level and then from the Italian regulatory’s perspective too. So, more to come on that as well.

So the most up to date information we have is that Delta will still launch flights to India in 2019, and the announcement will come in “the first part” of 2019.

I guess what “the first part” means depends on your perspective. Some might infer that to mean the first half of the year, while others might break up the year into quarters, in which case some might consider it to be the first quarter.

Bottom line

Delta says they’re still planning on launching flights to India in 2019, with the announcement coming in the first part of 2019, whatever that means.

It’s clear the timing of Delta’s announcement last year was intended purely to make a point regarding the Gulf carriers.

Personally I’d give Delta roughly 50/50 odds of launching this route, especially since I see the economy getting worse rather than better over the coming years. They can easily get out of this route and just claim it’s due to “market conditions.”

I’ll be curious to see what happens.

Do you think Delta will follow through with flights to Mumbai in 2019?

Comments

  1. “especially since I see the economy getting worse rather than better over the coming year”…

    Based on what exactly? Really like this blog but sometimes statements like this really make me scratch my head.

  2. @JG it’s pretty widely anticipated that the growing economy in the U.S. and globally will begin to slow in 2019 and potentially enter into a recession (albeit it could be a very minor one) by nearly all prominent economists. Italy is already in recession, and Germany narrowly missed it in Q4. Winter is coming, as they say.

  3. I’d take with a grain of salt any route announcements from the US3 immediately on the heels of anything they’ve put a lot of blustering and posturing and outright lying into. Nah, more like a bag of rock salt. I see the Mumbai announcement as merely a spin to claim they didn’t lose anything in the recent Open Skies “agreement”, rather they gained a route to India. ::eye roll:: We all know that’s laughable, but most folks who read this blog are likely more educated on this sorta thing than the average bear.

  4. @ben “Economist” have been saying that ever since 2013…..They do not know squat….if they did they wouldn’t be economist….they’d be sipping tea on an island.

  5. @JG: Market and analyst consensus is that U.S. economic growth will slow over the medium term. Does not mean that they’re right, but @Lucky’s assessment is firmly rooted in standard market and economist expectations. Real GDP growth got a sugar-high jolt from tax cuts, but as these recede, the growth rates will come down.

  6. Yes, I think we’ll hear something rather soon, though I highly doubt it would be operated by A350s unless DL is willing to take a serious weight penalty. My money is on the 77L.

  7. If the flight to Mumbai is meant to entice Indians to use Delta then it might work.
    Regardless of the state of economy Indians will always go to visit family, majority of them can afford it with 3-4 tix for the family.
    Others plan for it.

  8. Perhaps Delta’s hesitation has more to due with Jet Airways’ precarious situation. DL appears to be relying upon 9W to provide connecting flights; however, 9W’s survival is now seriously in question. Maybe Delta is waiting to see what will happen with Jet??

  9. I honestly wouldn’t be surprised if the route fails to materialize, and not just because of ‘violations’ of the ME3 or any upcoming recession.

    1: There is already a ton of service options between the US and India, including non-stop flights from several US cities.

    2: These tend to be lower yield flights, as family visits don’t really generate high front-cabin spending.

    3: On the same token, family visits don’t generate non-stop demand, and there are so many possible one-stop routings between the US and India that again, a non-stop from a city like Atlanta or Detroit just doesn’t make a lot of sense.

    Admittedly my armchair analysis is pretty shoddy, but given the current lay of the land I just can’t see the demand for a non-stop from Atlanta or Detroit, and most other cities where a non-stop is viable already have one.

  10. Ben, why are you mentioning the Open Skies Agreement between the US and UAE? What does that have to do with Delta’s upcoming (or maybe not) flight to Mumbai?

  11. Strongly recommend Delta Flight either non stop or a connecting flight in Europe( via Jet airways) to Mumbai. I flew Jet airways from London to Mumbai last year , with excellent service. They have connecting Flights throughout India, no other airlines match.Jet airways is the best airline of India for service, safety & on time flights. Delta flights also have excellent record.

  12. From New York I can fly UA or Air India. From the west coast multiple one stop Asian airlines. From SFO AI is non stop to Delhi. What then is the value proposition for Delta? I suppose an Atlanta to Mumbai route could be unique if non stop but I would much rather see non stops to Mumbai and Bangalore from SFO and LAX along with non stops from NY to Bangalore and Chennai. I don’t know whether aircrafts capable of making this a viable commercial proposition exists but that’s where the demand is.

  13. Do not expect this route to materialize. With ME3, Indians can connect to dozens of smaller cities in India and major metros in US with a single stop. DTW-BOM does not have sufficient O-D population and I would not expect a US-India route requring two connections in DTW and BOM to be successful. Qatar already operates to ATL and Delta competing with Qatar from ATL is not going to be easy. I would expect Delta to stick to partnering with Jet Airways or Virgin Atlantic for connecting to BOM via Europe (despite Transit Visa requirements for connecting in Europe for many Indians).

  14. By calling the city Mumbai you’re pondering to the fascist Shiv Sena & their rivals in the MNS. I used to live in Bombay, and all my local colleagues refused to utter the M-word

  15. @Credit, you are SPOT ON! Anyone who calls Bombay, M*****, supports the racist, fascist right-wing minority.

  16. I don’t know why people are bringing up politics here. City’s official name is Mumbai folks !!! While I agree that Shiv Sena and MNS are right wing parties, there is nothing wrong to change colonial names to their original. For that matter many other Indian cities have changed back to their older names e.g Madras -> Chennai, Calcutta -> Kolkata etc. China changed Peking to Beijing, Country name Ceylon changed to Sri Lanka. I would say that someone calling these cities/counties by colonial era names rather than official name, is arrogant.

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