Air India would operate special charter services to carry officials, athletes from Australia, New Zealand and other South Pacific nations attending the Commonwealth Games in Delhi in October.
India’s national flag carrier would operate these flights to promote the 19th Games due to be held from October 3 to 14, 2010 in the Indian Capital.
Only six teams from Australia, Canada, England, New Zealand, Scotland and Wales have participated in every Commonwealth Games held since 1930.
Officials of the airline have been in New Zealand and Australia in recent weeks to discuss issues relating to the special charter services.
There has also been speculation that Air India would reopen its offline office in Auckland that it had closed more than two years ago, to take advantage of the growing traffic between New Zealand and India.
A Civil Aviation source in Delhi told Indian Newslink last night that a direct air link between a major airport in India (possibly Mumbai or Delhi) and Auckland would materialise ‘shortly,’ but was uncertain if a beginning would be made by Air India, Air New Zealand or another Indian private carrier.
“A strong possibility exists for Air India to extend its service from Melbourne from next year,” the source said.
Indian Newslink can confirm that Air India would operate a daily direct service between Delhi and Melbourne from November 1, 2010.
In terms of an agreement signed between the Victoria Government and Air India, the airline will establish its regional headquarters in Melbourne, creating about 80 jobs. As a quid pro quo, Victoria Premier John Brumby is reported to have agreed to contribute to the cost of an advertisement campaign in India.
It took more than five years for Air India to decide to operate the service to Melbourne, dumping the earlier plan to fly into Sydney.
Melbourne newspapers claimed that the latest move was a “victory to Victoria,” especially since relations between Australia and India had soured in recent months following violent attacks against Indian students in Melbourne.
Mr Brumby’s recent visit to India appeared to have thawed relations.
Overseas Indian Affairs Minister Vayalar Ravi, who was in Melbourne recently, told Indian Newslink that he was “satisfied with the visit.”