Intense competition by Indian carriers Air-India and Jet Airways in the Mumbai-New York sector has forced established US carrier Delta Air Lines woo business-class passengers by offering complimentary helicopter rides.
Air-India started its daily non-stop service to New York (JFK) on August 1, and private carrier Jet Airways began its daily Mumbai-New York (Newark) service with a stopover at Brussels from August 5. They are aggressively wooing passengers by offering introductory fares as well as brand new airplanes saddled with added comforts and the latest in-flight amenities.
Expecting a drop in passenger numbers, Delta has launched its complimentary helicopter service for BusinessElite customers. This is the same class as Air India's Business Class and Jet's Premier Class.
This service is available between heliports in downtown Manhattan or at 34th Street and John F Kennedy International Airport on a non-stop ticket between New York and Mumbai. Passengers flying from Mumbai will also get this facility. The scheme is on for travel up to December 31.
"The benefits of the US helicopter service include an approximate 8-minute travel time between New York City heliports in midtown and downtown Manhattan and JFK, federally regulated security clearance at the heliports before arriving at JFK for departing flights and convenient check-in and boarding passes to final destinations," Delta said.
The airline said its non-stop service saved passengers up to four hours in each direction when compared with flying to the US via Europe. "Delta's flights are very conveniently timed," the airline added.
Incidentally, Delta was the first airline to fly non-stop to Mumbai 10 ago. Apart from Air-India and Jet, Delta is also facing competition from another Continental Airlines, which is scheduled to commence its non-stop service to Mumbai shortly.
"We have recorded a very strong performance with load factors in the mid 80 per cents," Delta said. Recently, the airline suspended a non-stop service to Delhi. "The service to Delhi did not meet market expectations. The JFK-Mumbai route is much more profitable," it added.