NEW DELHI: Air India has cut its European footprint by half as a cost-cutting move. Five cities — Milan, Madrid, Vienna, Copenhagen and Stockholm — have been removed from AI’s network as a cost-cutting move to survive the pandemic-induced severe downturn in travel. AI will now fly to London, Birmingham, Frankfurt, Paris and Rome in EU and the UK, said an official.
“We have not flown to the five cities that have been removed from its EU network for almost two months now. As of now, we cannot say when flights to those places will be resumed,” said the official. AI’s nonstops from Delhi to Milan, Madrid, Vienna, Copenhagen and Stockholm using its Boeing 787 Dreamliners were the only direct flights on these routes and were popular with travellers in pre-pandemic times.
An airline spokesperson said: “In view of the COVID situation, (AI has) approved to close down these stations. (We will) immediate initiate action with regard to closure in consultation with local lawyers, and advise the time lines, by which the station will be closed.”
India has so far created air bubbles with US, Canada, UK, France, Germany and UAE. Till schedule flights resume, people can travel between India and the countries under this interim arrangement. With no air bubble so far with Spain, Austria, Denmark and Sweden, flights to Madrid, Vienna, Copenhagen and Stockholm made little commercial sense.
India has begun lifting restrictions on the categories of people who can travel to and from the bubble countries. Now Indians can go to these special arrangement countries on any type of visa.
While corona has dealt a body blow to all airlines globally, those with weak balance sheets are finding it the hardest to survive. Airlines are downsizing and cutting costs through all possible means.
Last December, the king and queen of Sweden took an AI commercial flight from Stockholm to Delhi for a state trip to India after the official aircraft of the Swedish royal family had developed a snag at the last minute. Keen on keeping their official trip to India as per original schedule, King Carl Gustaf Folke Hubertus, queen Silvia Renate Sommerlath and their entourage had flown the AI Dreamliner to Delhi.