Brussels Airlines is poised to drop its only Asian service.
Flights from Brussels to Mumbai will cease from January 6, 2019 even though they were launched as recently as March 2017.
It’s a setback for Brussels airport which will lose its only direct service to India – Air India does not serve Brussels.
Brussels Airlines started the route to replace India’s Jet Airways when the latter closed its Brussels operation in favour of Amsterdam Schiphol.
Business Traveller was probably the first UK media to break the news back in 2015.
Some people wonder why Brussels Airlines is closing Mumbai when the flights were always busy.
In truth India is a notoriously low-yield market. The flights may have been busy but at what cost? The actual yield (revenue per seat) would be low.
A spokesman for Brussels Airlines told Belgian media 7sur7.be “Brussels Airlines must improve its profitability to grow. Therefore choices must be made.”
Why do Europe’s other large airlines continue to serve India?
Because the likes of British Airways, KLM and Lufthansa benefit from extensive hub operations which mean that the Indian market is valuable for them.
Their vast hubs allow these carriers to distribute travellers (both to and from India) across their entire networks but especially transatlantic. Brussels Airlines has a small hub by comparison.
Some years ago Lufthansa would boast that 80 per cent of passengers boarding in Mumbai were heading for destinations beyond Germany.
In addition Air France, KLM and Virgin Atlantic all have joint ventures with Jet Airways and US airline Delta.
That’s not all. Brussels Airlines faces competition from the Gulf carriers flying indirectly to India. And then the airport itself must compete with Amsterdam Schiphol and Paris CDG which are both linked directly to the Belgian capital by high-speed trains.
Cutting Mumbai will allow Brussels Airlines to strengthen its renowned African network.
It means that Banjul (Gambia) will be upgraded to a daily service (rather than four times a week) while Dakar will be direct.
Brussels Airlines is a member of Star Alliance. It says affected passengers can reroute with other alliance members via Frankfurt, Munich and Zurich.