September 17, 2008
New Airline Steps in for India Route
By Rhona Ganguly
A NEW airline has stepped forward to fill Air India's shoes by offering flights to the sub-continent from Birmingham International Airport.
Bilga Air will fly from the Midlands to Amritsar in Northern India - home of the Golden Temple in the Punjab - twice a week starting at pounds 575 return from October 9.
The announcement follows Air India's shock decision last week to pull the plug on its Birmingham to Amritsar route to protect its valuable slots at Heathrow Airport.
Named after a famous historical village - significant to followers of Sikhism - Bilga Air's flights will be operated by UK Charter Airline Monarch.
Although its schedule will vary at different times of the year, its flights will mainly operate on Sunday and Monday evenings.
More than 90 per cent will operate non-stop.
Jerry Blackett, chief executive of Birmingham Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the decision boosted the belief that Birmingham was the bridge path for Europe into Asia.
"I am not surprised really as it seems to me that the business communities that fly from Birmingham to India were there and it was only a matter of time before another airline came forward," he said.
"Our greatest cultural asset is the Asian business community. It is such a way of life now to think of the city in terms of its diversity and it is natural now to see ourselves as a melting pot."
Peter Vella, Birmingham International Airport's business development director, said: "Bilga Air's operation will help to fill a very popular market which exists in the Midlands, and following the disappointing news that Air India will temporarily suspend its flights between Birmingham and India from the end October, I'm sure it will be greatly welcomed by the Midlands Asian community.
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