The Labour MP for Harrow West, Gareth Thomas has written to three airlines, Air India, British Airways, and Virgin Atlantic to request that they consider bidding for extra slots to fly direct to Gujarat from British airports.
He noted that Gujarat is India’s fastest-growing state, and for many members of the British Gujarati community, traveling to Gujarat for family, business, faith, or sporting reasons is a challenge.
The only airport in the UK with direct flights to Gujarat is Gatwick, which means that people who live far from Gatwick must travel long distances to catch a flight.
Additionally, taking connecting flights within the UK or India can significantly increase travel time and costs.
Thomas also pointed out that the upcoming Cricket World Cup, which will be hosted by India in 2023, will be a major event for the British Gujarati community. Many people from the community are planning to travel to India to watch the matches, and direct flights would make this easier and more convenient.
Thomas believes that there should be both cheaper and high-quality options for flights to Gujarat.
The Department for Transport is offering airlines the chance to hand back temporarily slots at major airports which they don’t need, and is then auctioning these off. Thomas said that this provides an opportunity for airlines to trial new routes, increase capacity on existing routes, or test the market for more direct flights to Gujarat.
In his letters, Thomas asked the airlines to consider bidding for slots to fly direct to Ahmedabad, the capital of Gujarat, or other airports in the state.
He also asked the airlines to provide their views on whether the auction provides an opportunity to test the market for more direct flights to and from Gujarat.