Vancouver’s first new direct flight to India in decades could set off a flurry of business activity between the two markets.
That is why the B.C.-India Business Network (BCIBN), which includes several local business leaders who have been working on getting the new flight for more than 20 years, will host a symposium on the impact of the connection on July 15 at the Fairmont Waterfront Hotel.
BCIBN president Catherine Sas said the event will be a celebration for those who have worked on the issue, but she also recognized a need to inform Canadians who are not familiar with B.C.-India trade relations about the opportunities at hand.
“After the announcement (of the new direct flight to Delhi) came out, we thought it would be a good idea to showcase this, to share the information on how this is going to materialize, and what the impact is going to be,” Sas said. “It does make sense to have an event to focus what it means in practical terms.”
Sas said the flight will immediately simplify business travel to India. She should know — Sas has been flying to India regularly since 1995, mostly transferring through Asian hubs such as Tokyo or Seoul, or via European airports such as Heathrow.
“It takes you at least a day to get there,” she said. “If you go the Asian route, you have to stay overnight at a hotel. If you go the other route, you have to stay at a (connecting) airport for several hours. When you look at a nine-hour flight to London and another nine hours to Delhi, it’s an all-day affair.
“With the new (14-hour flight to India), it’s like flying to Hong Kong. It makes doing business much more streamlined. … If you are aware that you can now fly to India without incurring the extra cost, time and expense — time away from home and business — you may now look at that market. And certainly, India has demand for a lot of what we provide here in B.C.”
Air Canada announced in April it is launching the thrice-weekly flight linking YVR and Delhi starting Oct. 20, using the new Boeing 787-900 aircraft designed to operate at higher efficiency.
Craig Richmond, YVR Airport Authority’s president and CEO, said Delhi has been the most sought-after new destination in recent years, adding that the lack of North American flights to India means this new route will be extremely valuable for Vancouver and B.C. (Currently, Delhi is only served by direct flights from four North American cities: Toronto, San Francisco, Chicago and New York/Newark.)
“The airlines we’ve tried to get in the past had to use really large aircraft, and they had to be full, and they are four-engine aircraft that burn a lot of fuel,” Richmond said. “The economics just didn’t work. … With the 787-900, Air Canada started flying out of Toronto last November, and they were so excited with what they saw, they said, ‘Hey, Vancouver is 300 miles closer. Let’s go with Vancouver.’”
Richmond, who is scheduled to speak at next week’s gathering, noted that getting the flight is only the first step, and it is now up to potential passengers to take up Air Canada’s offer to encourage the airline to continue with the service.
“Let’s be clear: Air Canada is taking, no pun intended, a bit of a flyer on this route, but they heard the community really wanted this, so they stood up and put one of their brand new planes on the route,” he said. “We have a lot of people driving down to Seattle, flying Emirates through Dubai to Delhi. We have a lot of people taking other routes through Japan or Korea. If you want this direct flight, you have to support it.”
More information on the symposium can be found at http://www.bcibn.com.
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