Hans Airways’ first A330-200 has been undertaking proving flights, as required by the UK Civil Aviation Authority as part of obtaining an air operator’s certificate. How long now until the startup carrier’s first route, Birmingham to Amritsar, is formally announced and put on sale?
Hans Airways’ proving flights
Registered G-KJAS, Hans’ first aircraft is the 14.1-year-old A330-200. Delivered to Spanish airline Air Europa in September 2008, the aircraft was also briefly leased to Sweden’s charter airline Novoair.
After being stored in Palma, Ciudad Real, and Abu Dhabi, Flightradar24 shows that Hans’ first aircraft arrived in Birmingham on August 2nd as EC-KTG, the equipment’s registration with Air Europa. Then it was re-registered.
August 30th marked the start of Hans’ proving flights. That day, G-KJAS left Birmingham at 15:24. It routed Birmingham-Prestwick-Doncaster-Prestwick-Birmingham, returning at 22:18. The next day, it did a 1h 41m sortie from Birmingham, over Scotland, and back. When writing on September 1st, Flightradar24 shows it’s down to run Birmingham-Doncaster-Birmingham.
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First route: Birmingham to Amritsar
Expected to be served 4x weekly, Amritsar – best known as the home of the Golden Temple for Sikhs, a place I visited years ago – is Birmingham’s largest Indian market. According to booking data, Amritsar saw approximately 92,000 roundtrip passengers in 2019, with the top 10 markets detailed below. Note that figures are based on those who flew to/from Birmingham, not those leaked to other UK airports, notably Heathrow.
- Birmingham-Amritsar: 92,000 passengers in 2019 ← 4x weekly
- Birmingham-Delhi: 72,000 ← perhaps served 3x weekly?
- Birmingham to Mumbai: 34,000 ← a good opportunity too
- Birmingham to Kochi: 17,000
- Birmingham-Bengaluru: 15,000
- Birmingham to Goa: 14,000
- Birmingham-Chennai: 13,000
- Birmingham to Hyderabad: 11,000
- Birmingham to Ahmedabad: 9,000
- Birmingham-Kolkata: 8,000
Traffic is good, but…
It’s hardly surprising that, in terms of traffic, Amritsar appeals greatly to Hans, just like it has to many other operators over the years, often linking the Punjab city via unusual far-flung airports.
Hans’ CEO is also Sikh, it seems ‘Hans’ means swan in Punjabi, and Air India, which began Birmingham-Amritsar nonstop in 2018 with up to 3x weekly flights (beginning/ending in Delhi), currently flies just 1x weekly.
However, owing to the nature of the market, so heavily driven by religious traffic and Punjabi VFR demand, the average fare is low: across all airlines, just $210 one-way in 2019, excluding taxes and any fuel surcharge.
Yes, traffic is good, but when split over the distance – some 3,981 miles (6,407km) – it is obviously a very low-yielding market, resulting from a lack of premium demand. Such is often the case for most UK-India (and South Asia) markets, necessitating very low costs if it is to work.
Hans will have to avoid Russian and Ukrainian airspace, not shown in this map. It’ll probably add around 4% more miles. Image: GCMap.
Secondary UK cities to India
Hans says it will, in time, focus on other secondary UK cities to India markets, suggesting it will open other bases, or at least serve other airports on a ‘W’ basis, for example, Birmingham-India-Manchester and back.
Indeed, Manchester is the obvious opportunity, especially Mumbai and Delhi, neither served. Jet Airways previously operated Mumbai-Manchester, while Virgin had announced both cities in 2020 but then pulled them before they began:
- Manchester to Mumbai: 72,000 passengers in 2019
- Manchester to Delhi: 55,000
- Manchester to Goa: 52,000
- Edinburgh/Glasgow-Delhi: 30,000
- Manchester to Kochi: 29,000
- Manchester to Bengaluru: 24,000
- Manchester to Chennai: 22,000
- Edinburgh/Glasgow-Mumbai: 21,000
- Manchester to Hyderabad: 19,000
- Manchester to Ahmedabad: 16,000
- Manchester to Kolkata: 10,000
Where would you like Hans Airways to fly? Let us know in the comments.