Air India bid for code share with Qantas
Air India has attempted to broker a code-share alliance with Qantas before the state-run airline finally launches direct services between the subcontinent and Australia.
After a 16-year absence from Australia, Air India will begin daily flights on a triangular route between Delhi, Sydney and Melbourne in late August, using its fleet of new Boeing 787 Dreamliners.
Qantas and Air India have had talks about a code-share deal on the route, but the Australian airline played it down at the weekend. Qantas has a relationship with Jet Airways, India's second-largest airline.
Air India commercial director Deepak Brara confirmed the airline had been in talks with Qantas about a code-share deal but declined to comment about the progress of those negotiations.
"Qantas is a potential partner - we are talking to them," he said on Friday.
"Code sharing has been the way of doing business in the airline industry. We talk to airlines around the world, looking at code-sharing opportunities. Qantas certainly is one of those."
He declined to comment on how long the talks had been under way.
But Qantas said on Sunday it "has no plans to establish a code-share arrangement with Air India".
Qantas stopped flying to India in May last year when it ditched services between Singapore and Mumbai. The airline has flagged the possibility of one day flying again to Mumbai, but this would be dependent on it buying Boeing 787-9 planes, the longer-range versions of the Dreamliners.
Air India would benefit from Qantas feeding passengers onto its direct services.
Qantas' alliance partner, Jet Airways, is not considered likely to fly to Australia, and its long-term strategy remains unclear following Etihad's purchase of a cornerstone stake several months ago.
Air India's decision to launch direct services to Sydney and Melbourne will pose the biggest challenge to Singapore Airlines, which has the lion's share of travel to the subcontinent from Australia.
Air India has frequently come close to starting direct services here, only to postpone them due to internal issues or delays to the delivery of the 787 Dreamliners. Mr Brara conceded there had been a long delay, but said travellers could rely on the services happening because Air India had begun taking bookings for them on Friday.
"That should afford some degree of certainty. There have been so many [delays]," he said.
The NSW and Victorian governments have gone out of their way to convince Air India to fly to their capital cities, including offering concessions to land at Sydney and Melbourne airports.
The Air India flights will operate Delhi-Sydney-Melbourne for four days a week, while for three days they will run Delhi-Melbourne-Sydney.