Delta is Launching a Flight to India — and Obi Wan Kenobi Tells You Why

Delta announced that they will fly to Mumbai, India next year. They haven’t said where they’ll fly from, but presumably it’ll be Atlanta where they can muster plenty of connecting traffic. New York has competing flights already from United and Air India, great for non-stop traffic, but a less than ideal city for connections.

Everything old is new again because they announced Atlanta – Mumbai service 10 years ago.

Gateway of India, Mumbai

Delta says they’re doing this because of the recent agreements with the UAE and Qatar that don’t change their flying at all, in any way. And they specifically thank Donald Trump. Again.

The announcement follows agreements between the U.S. and the governments of the United Arab Emirates and Qatar to address the issue of government subsidies provided to state-owned carriers in those nations. The framework created by the agreement allows Delta to move forward with service to India, a market long impacted by government-subsidized Middle Eastern airlines.

This move will mark a return to India for Delta, which was forced to exit the market after subsidized state-owned airlines made service economically unviable.

“It is exciting to be able to announce Delta’s return to India from the U.S. as part of our vision to expand Delta’s reach internationally,” said Delta CEO Ed Bastian. “We are thankful to the president for taking real action to enforce our Open Skies trade deals, which made this new service possible. We are looking forward to providing customers in the U.S. and India with Delta’s famously reliable, customer-focused service operated by the best employees in the industry.”

Just like Obi Wan Kenobi explaining to Luke Skywalker that it was sort of true when he claimed Darth Vader betrayed and murdered Skywalker’s father — “from a certain point of view” — we can say the same thing about Delta’s explanation for why they’re returning to India.

To be clear Delta returns to India because,

  1. They have a new close partner in Jet Airways that can provide local connecting traffic in India and that’s being run by a former Delta executive.

  2. The Airbus A350 can fly long distances fuel-efficiently. Delta hasn’t announced that their route will be flown by an A350 but it’s a logical guess, and of course Delta doesn’t buy new Boeing aircraft so doesn’t have any 787s. (When they served Atlanta – Mumbai it was with a larger and more expensive to operate Boeing 777-200LR.)

How on earth Delta’s ability to fly to India was affected by fifth freedom routes flown between the US and Europe by Gulf carriers (of which there are only two) which is where Delta pivoted to in its lobbying they do not say.

However it is technically true that without the resolution with the Gulf carriers Delta wouldn’t fly to India because they were so rhetorically committed to the narrative that Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar were harming them that they couldn’t undermine their own position by announcing India service earlier — although once they began close cooperation with India’s Jet Airways last year it was an obvious and foregone conclusion that Delta would return to the India market.

Delta’s rhetoric was so extreme they slandered Emirates, Etihad and Qatar with the specter of 9/11 (while not mentioning their own partner, Saudia, is backed by the government of Saudi Arabia). And they called Boeing’s commercial airplane division an ‘arms dealer’ selling weapons to these airlines.

So it is true that the catalyst here was taking the Gulf carrier issue off the table, from a certain point of view. That was not a sufficient condition. But to them it was necessary, flying to India after claiming the Gulf carriers made it impossible would have been too embarrassing for the corporate personhood.

Nonetheless the fact that Delta will return to India without any limitation on flights between the US and Mideast placed upon Emirates, Etihad, and Qatar and without any rules imposed on their pricing — which is what Delta demanded — just underscores how bankrupt their position was all along.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. They will fail miserably as they should for being a totten corporate entity
    Pax from and to east coast will not connect in atlanta, they will fly non stop NY
    Pax to and from west coast will fly pacific….
    Pax with brains will fly this ultra long haul flight with anybody BUT a US carrier

  2. I don’t give my business to Delta anymore …. not a dollar Very bad Corporate culture. Sickening to read anything coming from their PR team. Absolute bull shit from America’s worst major airline.

  3. But once again , Delta gets AA to jump on last years bandwagon only to get outmaneuvered by the more agile company.

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