Melbourne: Expanding its global network, Air
India has signed a deal with the Australian government to
launch daily flights from Delhi from November one and make the
airport here a regional hub for connecting US destinations.
The agreement was signed here by Air India CMD Arvind
Jadhav and Victoria state Premier John Brumby and Industry and
Trade Minister Jacinta Allan, a statement from the Premier`s
Office said today.
Brumby said Air India`s decision to select Melbourne for
its first direct international flight to Australia was a
"recognition of Victoria being Australia`s premier destination
for Indian tourists and businesses".
The Premier also announced that Air India would be setting
up its regional headquarters in Melbourne.
Sources in AI said the company was now eyeing tourist
market in Australia by offering flights to the US and the UK
via Delhi at competitive prices.
As part of plans to expand its global network, Air India
is mulling launching daily flights to San Francisco from New
Delhi this year, but a final decision is yet to be arrived at.
Victoria`s Commissioner to India, Geoffrey Conaghan, said
Air India would become the only airline flying direct between
Australia and India.
Its decision to choose Melbourne as a hub for Australian
operations made "great business sense and gives the airline
the ability to leverage the strong growth in passenger
numbers", he said, adding the move would help reposition India
as the preferred stopover for tourists on the high volume
Europe-Australia `Kangaroo Route`.
There was a strong growth in tourist numbers from India to
Victoria, up 26 per cent for the year ending December 2009,
with students dominating the share at 45 per cent.
The Victorian Premier said the deal would create up to 78
jobs and see up to 1,23,000 new tourist and business arrivals
from India to Victoria each year.
Noting that it would be a significant move to further
strengthen trade and cultural ties between Victoria and India,
he said there was a 17.4 percent increase in visitors from
India to Victoria in the year to March this year.
Observing that Indians and Australians shared common
interest in cricket, education, film and trade, Brumby said
"with a growing Indian community living in Victoria we are
also seeing more relatives and friends visit Victoria which is
great for local jobs and the economy as tourism grows."
Allan said Air India`s arrival in Victoria highlighted
the competitive strengths of Melbourne Airport compared to its
inter-state equivalents like Sydney.
"Melbourne Airport is Australia`s major around-the-clock,
curfew-free international airport, accommodating international
carriers at about half the operating cost incurred at Sydney,"
Australia India Business Council vice chairman Ravi Bhatia
said the AI new venture was a great step forward in India-
Australia business and trade relationship.
"The new alliance of AI is a huge part of rebuilding our
relations with Australia that has been slightly dented in the
past," he said.