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American Airlines resumes service to India after nine-year break; US-India market set for record year

JFK - DEL line-upAmerican Airlines has returned to India after a break of nine years. On Friday 12 November the airline began daily service on the 11,780-kilometre route between New York JFK and Delhi using its Boeing 777-300ERs. The inaugural flight (AA 292) departed JFK at 19:27 and arrived at Delhi Indira Gandhi International Airport at 20:20 the following day, after a flight of 14 hours and 23 minutes. The return flight departed the Indian airport on Monday 15 November at 01:25 and arrived back in the US at 07:10 the same day, 16 hours and 15 minutes after having taken off. Competition on the route comes from Air India’s 3-weekly service. American recently entered into a codeshare agreement with leading local carrier IndiGo covering 29 domestic routes in India. For fans of trivia, this now becomes American’s longest route this winter, passing the 11,011-kilometre sector between Dallas/Fort Worth and Seoul in South Korea.

2021 set to be record year for US-India market

It may seem hard to believe, but at the turn of the century there were no non-stop services between the US and India. That remained the case for a number of years until American and Continental (remember them?) both began service to Delhi in November 2005, American from Chicago and Continental from Newark. Both airlines used their 777s on the route. Delta joined the party in 2006 when it began flights to Mumbai from JFK at the start of the W06/07 season, again using 777s. Air India launched the same route in August 2007 with its own 777s.

US-India market 2005-2021

By 2008 there were over 2,000 annual non-stop flights between the two countries, typically six per day. For the next eight years annual flights stayed around this level, though with a dip in 2012 when American left the market. That same year United merged with Continental and took over its routes. Between 2015 and 2018 the number of flights grew by one-third, driven by Air India’s expansion in the market. The Indian flag-carrier had launched service between Delhi and San Francisco in late 2014 and also began flights from the Indian capital to Washington in July 2017.

Despite the pandemic, the number of flights in 2020 remained relatively high, presumably being operated mostly for cargo purposes. United had launched service between San Francisco and Delhi in December 2019 and followed this up with Chicago to Delhi in December 2020. As a result, 2021 is set to be the busiest year ever in terms of flights between the two countries.

Delta’s presence in the market has been considerably smaller than its fellow US carriers. It operated between New York JFK and Mumbai between November 2006 and October 2008, and then again, briefly, between December 2019 and March 2020. It also offered non-stop service between Atlanta and Mumbai from November 2008 to October 2009. There are no indications that it plans to return to India any time soon.

12 services being offered this December

With the return of American, there are now 12 services between the US and India in December; seven flown by Air India, four by United and one by American. The 12 services are across seven airport-pairs with competition now on five routes; Delhi to Chicago ORD, New York EWR, New York JFK and San Francisco, as well as Mumbai to Newark.

One route not listed in this graph is Air India between Hyderabad and Chicago. This weekly service launched in January 2021 but was suspended during the summer. Cirium Data and Analytics schedules shows the route resuming next April, again on a weekly basis.

Having finally returned to India, American plans to launch a second route, this time between Seattle-Tacoma and Bengaluru. Originally slated for an early January 2022 launch, the first flight has now been pushed back to 26 March 2022. Flights are set to operate daily using the airline’s 787-9s.

ORD - DEL