AI would need to build a multi hub approach. India is a huge country in terms of population, and one hub is simply not going to work, especially when DXB, DOH and AUH are basically next door. The AI approach would be like funneling all traffic to JFK for long distant flights out of the US. People turn to other carriers. Also, the ME3 have better aircraft, better hubs, better service, so why would anyone choose to connect via DEL?
BLR-SFO may not work, but IMO, its a better strategy (the multi hub approach) with point to point ULH flying, to capture the premium NS traffic. If you have to stop once, the majority would choose to go through the ME3 hubs and have their much much better product.
India is not large enough, nor does it have sufficient J class passengers to make a multi-hub approach work for ULH flights. For flights to ME or SE Asia, all airlines in India follow a multi-hub strategy because there is sufficient passenger demand, and there are aircraft available which can make the trip economically. For India-NA ULH flights, there are no 120-150 seat aircraft that can fly 7500nm economically to make a BLR-SFO, HYD-SEA, MAA-LAX type flight work.
AI was recently forced by the govt to start the AMD-LHR-EWR flight. I am sure @vadodara will contest this, but that flight has been widely regarded as one of AI's top loss making routes. That just goes to show that even with large diasporas in Greater London and New York-New Jersey urban areas, smaller cities in India cannot sustain long-haul flights without connecting traffic.
The other advantage of having one hub is that an airline doesn't need as many aircraft as it would otherwise need. For example, let's have three people each from BLR,HYD and MAA travel to SFO, LAX and SEA. An airline with multiple hubs in each of the Indian cities mentioned flying non-stop routes would need 9 aircraft carrying only 1 passenger per aircraft, while EK does it with just 3 (assuming arrival and departure banks), connecting at DXB and carrying 3 per aircraft. The net result is that EK can fly those routes profitably. So why is AI adopting a similar approach so anathema? For a country as large as USA, even UA funnels the majority of its China bound passengers through SFO.
With respect to people "simply" choosing ME3 over AI, that has not been the case. EY withdrew AUH-SFO flights because it didn't have sufficient passengers after AI increased the frequency of DEL-SFO to 6 times a week
. Where did EY put the aircraft that was freed up by this withdrawal? DFW, where AI doesn't fly. Not to mention the fact that SFO-DEL-BLR is much closer to SFO-BLR non-stop than SFO-DXB-BLR
I wonder why people expect AI to fly BLR-SFO non-stop yet never voice the same sentiment for 9W.
BOM does not need AI to start any flights from BOM. When they dropped BOM from a primary hub to a secondary hub/ focus city we moved on. More flights from BOM by UK would be really appreciated.
BOM hardly has any slots available to start new flights by any operator.