A 20,000 signature petition is today being delivered to the Indian Government’s Minister for Civil Aviation in Delhi to show the strong demand in the Midlands for the reintroduction of direct non-stop flights between Birmingham and India.
However, the two bosses leading the campaign say that there’s still much more that can be done and are urging the region’s business and Asian communities to get behind their ‘Fly India’ campaign to help them reinstate direct non-stop services.
Councillor Mike Whitby, leader of Birmingham City Council and organiser of the initial petition delivered today, explains, “The response received following the launch of my petition last October has been tremendous, with more than 20,000 signatures already received and the petition is now en route to India.
"Nevertheless, I am now working with the Airport to give the Fly India campaign another push and gain even more support so that we can demonstrate, with little doubt, the overwhelming demand for direct flights between Birmingham and India.
“The potential economical, social and cultural benefits to be reaped if these flights were in place would be significant and would be a real demonstration of the natural links that exist between Birmingham, the Midlands and India.
"It is also key to our status as a truly Global City in developing our ever-growing ties with the emerging markets in India and the wider sub-continent.
“What we need now is for the Indian community and businesses to get behind this campaign to ensure we send a powerful message to those airlines that are able to provide direct flights, such as Air India, Kingfisher and Jet Airways.“
The Midlands Asian market speaks for itself. There are 1.3m Indian people living in England and the city of Birmingham alone has five times as many Indians as the city of Manchester.
Outside of London, the West Midlands has more Indians living within it than any other region in England, with 15% of England’s total, some 200,000 people.
Paul Kehoe, CEO of Birmingham Airport adds, “I’ve been the Chief Executive of the Airport now for over a year and I still find it incredible that although there are around 350,000 people of Indian origin living in the one hour catchment of the Airport, there hasn’t been a direct flight to India since October 2008.
“To secure its slots at Heathrow, Air India sadly moved its Delhi-Amritsar-Birmingham-Toronto in 2008 to the capital. During its three years at Birmingham however, demand was never a problem.
In fact, in the last year of operation alone it carried 100,000 people between Amritsar, Delhi, Birmingham and Toronto and its load factors were often more than 85% full.
“We therefore want to give the power back to the community by asking them to support our campaign and give us the evidence so we can show prospective airlines and the Indian authorities that there’s a compelling case – both economic and social – for services to be reintroduced.”