Hyderabad: The grounding of Air India's Dreamliner fleet has hampered the much awaited proposal of direct flight connectivity between India and Australia, a top Australian diplomat has said.
Direct flight service is essential between the two countries as in and out-bound tourist traffic is increasing with each passing year, said Lachlan Strahan, the Deputy Head of Mission at Australian High Commission in New Delhi.
"India said it would launch direct flights from New Delhi to Melbourne and Sydney three or four times a week. They were planning to use Dreamliners and they had some problems with battery (of Dreamliner) and were grounded," Strahan said.
"India has not indicated when they are going to start the operations. As per schedule, they are supposed to start by the end of March," the diplomat told here last evening.
When contacted, an Air India spokesperson said they have already applied for summer schedule to the Director General of Civil Aviation and it includes direct flights to Sydney and Melbourne using Dreamliners.
"Since they (Dreamliners) are grounded, we will not be able to tell if there will be any replacement. Clear picture will emerge only after February 17," the AI spokesperson said.
The DGCA had on January 17 asked Air India to cease Dreamliner operations with immediate effect till the battery problem was fixed.
The civil aviation regulator took the decision to ground the Dreamliners after it received a global advisory about it from the Federal Aviation Administration which came after two incidents of fire caused by the battery of the aircraft.

Strahan said around 1.9 lakh Australian tourists visited India and 1.52 lakh Indians visited Australia during 2011-12, making it the tenth largest tourist source to each other.
"The numbers are growing by 6 to 10 per cent year on year and we have around 3.5 lakh tourists travelling between both the countries. We think we will reach the four lakh mark soon," he said.
Earlier, Australia used to have a direct flight from Sidney to Mumbai, operated by Qantas. As the operation became inviable, the Australian Airliner discontinued the service in 2009.
Later, the airline started operating a flight from Mumbai to Singapore which also was stopped last year owing to operational expenses, Strahan said.


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