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Air India Reduces Middle East Flights Amid Aircraft & Crew Constraints

Air India is planning to cut frequencies from Delhi to some of the most popular destinations in the Middle East following Eid-ul-Fitr due to aircraft and crew shortages. One flight a week to Dubai, Muscat, and Doha from Delhi will be suspended for four weeks as the carrier uses its limited resources to focus on domestic routes. The change could hinder some travelers’ plans but those flying to Dubai are likely to be untroubled with AI’s 4x daily services.

Balancing Demand and Capacity

As Air India enters a phase of rapid expansion, it is inevitably struggling with aircraft and crew shortages. Despite constant hiring cycles, the carrier has also offered voluntary retirement schemes (VRS) to thousands of pre-privatization employees who have worked for decades. This VRS was accepted by thousands of crew, kicking off a shortage in the system.

Now, the shortage is biting Air India’s cash cow routes in the Middle East. According to Mint, the carrier is cutting one weekly to four destinations. The report includes Delhi-Abu Dhabi as one of those being cut, but neither Air India, Air India Express, nor AIX Connect service the route.

In particular, Air India’s Delhi-Muscat flight on Saturdays (AI973) will not operate from April 29th to May 27th. Delhi-Doha Hamad (DOH) will not fly on Sundays from April 30th to May 28th (AI971), and Delhi-Dubai International (DXB) will not operate on Tuesdays from May 2nd to 30th (exact service unknown).

The Impact

For passengers traveling in May, there is no reason to panic, Air India will reach out with alternate flights or a refund in due course. Those on Delhi to Doha and Muscat will be most affected since these routes only operate 5x/6x weekly, meaning travelers will have to fly another day. Meanwhile, those on Delhi-Dubai will likely be given the choice to switch to another flight on Tuesday with four more direct flights available.

Air India has timed these cuts for the week after Eid-ul-Fitr, which marks the end of Ramadan, and sees a surge in travel between India and the Middle East. Once this traffic winds down, passenger numbers tend to drop off before the summer holidays begin in late May. Taking advantage of this reduction, and shortages, AI has opted to cut flights on redeploy on the other routes.

Air India Express is also taking advantage of the uptick, increasing services from five to six weekly on the Thiruvananthapuram to Dubai and Abu Dhabi routes temporarily. Air India plans to align schedules with AI Express in the coming months, meaning it will increase and reduce flights on some routes, with more changes in the Middle East network on the way.

Air India Keeping Busy

While one flight a week may not seem like too much, it frees up the valuable Airbus A320neo to be flown on busy domestic sectors for the start of summer holidays in India. The decision comes as Air India plans to induct its first new aircraft in four years, two A321neos originally destined for Russian carrier Ural Airlines. VT-RTB and -RTE will be the first to arrive as part of Air India’s mega order for 470 aircraft from Boeing and Airbus.

Source : Simple Flying