In total British Airways and Virgin Atlantic combined operate 28 weekly flights to Mumbai from London and 28 weekly flights to Delhi from London.
British Airways chief executive officer Sean Doyle on June 30 said that there is a need for India and the United Kingdom to negotiate additional flying rights to operate more flights to Delhi and Mumbai from London.
“BA (British Airways) and VA (Virgin Atlantic) have completely utilized the air services agreements (ASAs) to operate flights from London to Delhi and Mumbai. There is a need to open them up,” Doyle told reporters at a press conference in Delhi.
He added that British Airways had asked policymakers on both sides to view aviation as a catalyst for the expansion of trade ties.
“ASAs must keep pace with growing demand and should be more liberal,” Doyle said.
British Airways operates three daily flights to Mumbai from Heathrow Airport in London and two daily flights to Delhi from London, while Virgin Atlantic operates one daily flight between London and Mumbai and two daily flights between London and Delhi.
In total both airlines combined operate 28 weekly flights to Mumbai from London and 28 weekly flights to Delhi from London.
Doyle became the second head of an international airline to call for increased bilateral flying rights to India after Emirates Airline’s President Sir Tim Clark.
Clark, the head of flag carrier Emirates, had in March said that Indian airlines are missing out on revenues to the tune of $800-900 million due to limited bilateral agreements between India and Dubai.
He added that Dubai has asked India to approve 50,000 extra seats per week between Dubai and India, but the response from New Delhi has been dismissive till now.
Indian authorities have said that they are planning to stop providing any more ’flying rights’ or ‘bilateral rights’ to foreign carriers, as part of the country’s plans to push its own domestic carriers on the international routes.
Doyle added that British Airways is keen on expanding its operations to India and currently operates 56 weekly flights connecting five Indian cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad.
British Airways Chairman added that the airline operates more flights to India now even when compared to pre-Covid times when it used to fly 49 times to India in a week.
“Our network to the UK for Indian travellers is very significant… We have the biggest network to connect India with the US to serve 31 cities and also have extensive network in Canada,” Doyle said.
In the Indian market, Doyle said there is a strong connecting traffic and also mentioned the growth of the Indian diaspora in the US as a factor for rising travel demand.
While noting that partnerships are important, Doyle also emphasised building its own proposition for India.
British Airways has also opened ‘CallBA’, its new call centre located in Gurugram, offering an enhanced customer experience to travellers across the globe.
It has 1,400 staff who provide support to customers from the US and Europe, through to Asia Pacific.
British Airways has more than 2,000 employees in the country, the airline’s Chief Customer Officer Calum Laming said.
It has a total global workforce of more than 35,000 people.
British Airways has also partnered with IndusInd Bank and joint business partner Qatar Airways for a multi-branded airline credit card.
From July, card holders will be able to collect Avios and elevate their travel experience, with benefits ranging from fast-track to meet-and-greet and concierge services, Doyle said
Indian customers travelling between Mumbai, Delhi and Bengaluru can enjoy the airline’s newly designed Club Suite (business class) cabin, with direct aisle access, a suite door for greater privacy and luxurious flat-bed seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.