Australia welcomes Air India plans for direct flights

New Delhi, July 19 (IANS) Australia Friday welcomed Air India's plans to deploy its newly-acquired Boeing 787 aircraft to the country from next month.

"The direct Air India flights are yet another example of the strength in the Australia-India relationship, and the rapidly expanding people-to-people links between our two countries," High Commissioner Bernard Philip said.

"We expect Indian visitor numbers to Australia to nearly double by 2020, so these direct flights will benefit many Indian business travellers, students, migrants, tourists and families," he added.

The national carrier plans to operate direct daily flights between India and Australia from Aug 29, 2013.

There were around 450,000 people of Indian origin living in Australia in 2012 and India has also become the largest source of skilled migrants to Australia.

In 2012, India was the tenth largest source of visitors to Australia, with 159,000 people travelling, and around 180,000 Australians visit India each year.

The airline plans to use the highly fuel-efficient aircraft which utilises advanced technologies like composite materials, newly-developed engine and advanced avionics to open up new routes to Europe, Australia and Africa and other major destinations in the coming days.

The airline hopes that it can gain market share by operating more international flights, which will offset its losses on the domestic sector that has seen budget carriers overtaking Air India on major inbound routes.

The national carrier had earlier said that it plans to operate New Delhi-Sydney-Melbourne services from August, New Delhi-Rome-Milan flight from October and New Delhi-Moscow schedule operations from next year on the Dreamliner aircraft.

The airline also plans to re-operate its Mumbai-Nairobi route. Air India had booked 27 Boeing 787s in 2006 in a mega-deal. It currently has seven 787s and will take delivery of seven more by the end of this year, another five in 2014, six in 2015 and two in 2016.

The airline is operating its 787s from Delhi to Bangalore, Chennai, Dubai, Paris, Frankfurt, London and Birmingham.

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