Air India Dreamliner direct flight touches down Australian land for first time

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THE first Boeing 787 Dreamliner to enter commercial service on a route to Australia lands today courtesy of Air India, as the airline uses the fuel-efficient aircraft to open up new routes.

Air India’s return has been a long time coming but the direct service to the subcontinent has been roundly welcomed by airports and the tourism industry.

Both see India, with its burgeoning population and rising middle class, as a key growth market, and the 12-hour daily Delhi-Sydney-Melbourne route is set to knock about eight hours off the indirect routes now on offer.

Qantas presently connects to India’s Jet Airways via Singapore, after axing its own Singapore-Mumbai service last year, and the partnership is expected to continue despite a change of ownership at Jet with Etihad taking a major stake.

Singapore Airlines claims a major slice of the indirect market and will also be affected by the new competition.

The airline believes the market has been underserved and expects the 787 – with advanced technology, bigger windows and higher cabin pressure – to be a drawcard. Air India has seven in its fleet configured with 18 business and 238 economy seats with more on the way.

A report this week from Tourism Australia identified India as one of the world’s fastest growing outbound travel markets with 50 million travellers expected by 2020.

TA’s India 2020 Strategic Plan aimed at capturing a bigger slice of the Indian market predicts the country could be worth between $1.9 billion and $2.3bn to the Australian economy by the end of the decade.

Since the plan’s launch in June last year, leisure spend from India has risen 26 per cent. The tourism body says international visitor arrival and spending figures confirm India’s status as one of Australia’s fastest growing and most valuable international tourism markets, with visitors in 2012-13 rising 7.8 per cent compared with the previous year.

The 164,000 visitors contributed $804 million to the Australian economy in “overnight” spending.

The research found Indians ranked Australia third among countries to which they wanted to travel and they saw its beaches, iconic landmarks, landscapes and wildlife as major drawcards.

It is seen as a family-friendly country with a range of experiences on offer and Indians are highly influenced by friends or family who have visited.

“We’ve significantly upped our efforts in India over the past three years and the results are evident,” Tourism Australia managing director Andrew McEvoy said.

“Whilst overall arrivals are up a solid 7.8 per cent, leisure visitors have nearly doubled.”

Source: The Australian

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