Last year, Delta Air Lines Inc. announced that it would restart flights between the U.S. and Mumbai, India, but left up in the air whether New York or its hometown hub in Atlanta would win the connection again.
The wait ended Tuesday as Delta announced that the route would take off from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, linking the financial centers of the world’s two largest democracies starting Dec. 22.
According to a Delta release, New York is the “market to India with the largest base of corporate customers.” The flight will leave from Terminal 4, the international gateway at JFK that Delta spent $1.2 billion to revamp in 2013.
A Boeing 777-200LR will be deployed on the route, which will take off from New York at 9:15 p.m and arrive at 10:50 p.m. the following day. That puts the flight time at just over 15 hours.
Some in Atlanta had held out hope that the nearly 100,000-strong Indian community here would be enough to sway the decision in the city’s favor.
Unclear on plans from Delta, which ended its India flights from Atlanta in 2009, Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport officials have made multiple trips to India in an effort to sell Indian carriers on a nonstop route.
Delta executives once again said the way for the new route was paved by “understandings” the U.S. reached with both Qatar and the United Arab Emirates last January and May, respectively.
Delta has long asserted that carriers from both Middle Eastern countries have received unfair government subsidies that undercut American carriers’ competitiveness on long-haul routes.
“This route would not be possible without the [Trump] administration’s ongoing efforts to enforce fair competition in international travel, ensuring that consumers enjoy a wide range of choices as they travel the globe,” Delta CEO Ed Bastian said in a statement.
Delta suggested that the flight could mean the return of as many as 1,500 U.S. aviation jobs.
But some analysts have argued that little has changed as a result of what Delta called “landmark agreements,” the language of which left both sides room to claim victory.
Last May, the U.S. stopped short of re-opening the Open Skies pact that governs air service between the U.S. and the UAE as Delta had requested. But Delta seized on the fact that both sides acknowledged possible harm from subsidies and that Etihad agreed to post audited financial statements as Emirates had done for years.
In previous years, however, Delta executives had asserted that it was a different form of government subsidy — from the U.S., in fact — that hurt its ability to compete in India.
Former Delta CEO Richard Anderson told Congress that U.S. Export-Import Bank subsidies of Boeing wide-body aircraft purchases by Air India were what killed Delta’s routes to India.
Meanwhile, Delta faces more competition to India than ever before, especially here in Atlanta.
Qatar Airways and Turkish Airlines launched flight to Doha and Istanbul within a month of each other in 2016, expanding the options for one-stop routes to India from Atlanta.
Delta travelers here have been able to travel one-stop to India via Amsterdam, London and Paris through Delta’s joint venture partners Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic. A codeshare arrangement with India’s Jet Airways has provided an array of other options.