Somewhere in an Air India Executive Board Room in New Delhi, celebration is erupting.
According to Air India sources, bookings to the US have doubled from 150 a day to 300 in the two weeks since the ban was announced.
Air India has also been able to take advantage of the situation by increasing fares by about ₹10,000 on an average.
“The US is definitely one of the most profitable sectors for us. The laptop ban will surely help us grow further on the route as business travellers who are spending 14-17 hours on a flight need to work on their laptops. We would be adding more connections to the US in the next one year,” Ashwani Lohani, CMD, Air India, told BusinessLine.
So, fares up about $150/rt, but only 300 bookings per day to the USA? That seems very low considering the capacity of current routes to Newark, New York JFK, Chicago, San Francisco, and now Washington Dulles.
New Air India USA Routes Under Consideration
Air India will lease additional 787s to expand service to North America, with service to Los Angeles, Houston, and Dallas under consideration. The carrier also wants to serve either Vancouver or Toronto.
Why This Is About More Than Laptops
I have an Indian friend who religiously fly Emirates to the USA. It seems to be a trend among many Indian nationals and not all that surprising considering Air India’s checkered past.
With the electronics ban discouraging passengers from booking on Gulf carriers, Air India has a chance to win back many local customers instead of simply ceding competition now to European carriers.
Air India should start by emphasizing that the experience on its 777s, for example, is so much more comfortable than the same plane on Emirates. True, there will not be as many movies to choose from, but instead of 10 seats across there will only be nine. Seat pitch will also be better
That’s huge to me on an ultra-longhaul flight. On the other hand, Air India does not offer Wi-Fi onboard its flights. If it truly wants to woo business travelers who need to stay connected and use laptops during their flight, their first task should be to provision the longhaul fleet with Wi-Fi.
There are winners and losers in the electronics ban. Thus far, the Gulf carriers seems to be losing while US, European, and perhaps particularly Indian carriers stand to gain. Air India has been handed on a golden platter the opportunity to win many customers. It is the carrier’s opportunity to either capitalize on or forfeit.