Melbourne: Air India's first commercial Boeing 787 Dreamliner flight to Australia landed this morning with almost full capacity but without Indian politicians who were to mark the return of the carrier Down Under.
Media reports said that Air India's Flight AI-312 landed at Sydney Airport at 8.29 am (local time) few minutes behind its schedule and then to Melbourne early afternoon at 11.59 am.
A press conference was held at the Melbourne airport to welcome the Air India's first flight and it was addressed by Melbourne Airport CEO Chris Woodruff, CEO at Tourism Victoria Leigh Hary and Air India's Joint MD Syed Nasir Ali.
Thanking the Australian government on behalf of Air India Ali said "it is great to be back in Australia after 16 years".
He said the first flight was almost 80 per cent booked with few seats empty which was because the official delegation including politicians had cancelled their scheduled visit.
Ali said the response till now received from Australia was overwhelming with over 80 per cent seats sold out on the flights for the next one month.
"Air India, one of the oldest airlines, has been receiving an overwhelming response from Australian public. We are receiving heavy bookings for the next month, and if the trend continues we may also look at straight direct flights and connecting other cities like Mumbai," he said.
Commenting on the marketing strategies to re-establish itself Down under, Ali said, "Air India was already armed with strategies in place and has done its maths to do that. The flights were not only heavily booked for first two or three days of its operation but even after that which was very encouraging for the airlines."
The triangular air service which will run between Sydney, Melbourne and Delhi are dubbed as a welcome step to further enhance the relations between India and Australia.
India has been picked up as a key destination for Tourism Australia, and the direct flights are expected to give further impetus.
Ali said that the induction of 787 planes felicitated the Air India to start the new service to Australia which has been on the list as a destination.
Air India has seven 787 planes in its fleet, and will take delivery of another seven by the end of the year.
The aircraft has seats for 18 passengers in business class and 238 in economy.
Chris Woodruff, welcoming the Air India, said that traffic from India has been rising with Melbourne alone accounting for over 25,000 Indian students.
The CEO of Tourism Victoria, Leigh Hary, said: "Last year, over 73,000 Indian tourists visited Victoria, which was nearly 17 per cent jump as compared to previous year and that was before the Air India flights were here.
"Our aim with the new direct flights is to grow that number rapidly," he said.
Ali also talked about a dedicated service between Melbourne and Delhi in the event of Air India receiving similar response in future.
"As traffic grows, I hope that there will be a dedicated plane between Melbourne and Delhi. I am sure it will come," he said.
"The response from the travelling public has been overwhelming," he added.
Meanwhile, Woodruff cited the growing traffic between Victoria and India which he said had grown 116 per cent since 2006.
"Melbourne is home to a large Indian population. More than 3,00,000 passengers travel between Melbourne and India every year, with an average growth of 8 to 10 per cent per year," he said.
"We are the home of the Dreamliner here in Australia. Some of the components are manufactured here in Victoria and Jetstar is having its maintenance base here.
"We expect to see many more, it is a plane that is ideally suited to the Melbourne market, especially from points in South East and North East Asia so its got the range, the payload, the economics to serve markets that weren't profitable before. So, I think we will be seeing a lot more of the aircraft here," Woodruff added.
First Published: Friday, August 30, 2013, 14:33