Virgin Atlantic’s decision to resume daily direct flights between Mumbai and London — three years after it pulled the service amid a global economic slowdown — signals the company’s belief that the Indian economy is bouncing back strongly, according to CEO Steve Ridgeway.
“We left Mumbai reluctantly but the world was a hairy place at the time, and we always said we would come back as soon as we could,” Ridgeway said. “We are back now with a fleet of new Airbus 330 aircraft, and a more competitive schedule.”
Virgin, which has been flying to Delhi for 12 years, entered India early enough to witness the “explosive” deregulation of the aviation industry. “There is no doubt that initially it was opened up too fast.”
“We all overcooked it a bit — too much capacity went in at first and then, of course, there was the slowdown. Indian carriers lost a lot of money and we pulled out of Mumbai in 2009,” said Ridgeway, who will step down in 2013 after 23 years with Virgin.
“But if you look at what’s happening now, it’s growing again very strongly,” he went on. “There’s a pretty good balance in terms of the amount of capacity in the market and there’s a desire for traffic to come to Europe and key markets in the US — Boston, New York, Washington, Miami, San Francisco, Chicago, LA.”
“We are offering a much stronger product in terms of the timings and all the connectivity at a time when we are seeing the Indian market grow and recover,” Ridgeway said. “I think there’s a harmony and a sweet spot that have come together and who knows, down the road there may be more places in India we may fly.”