DIRECT flights from India to Melbourne and Sydney are slated to begin as soon as September.

Air India will take possession of the first of its new fleet of 787 Dreamliners from Boeing this month, with the new fuel-efficient long-haul aircraft set to open up new routes for the embattled state-run carrier.

Joint secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and board member of Air India, Prashant Sukul, told BusinessDay flights to Australia were a priority once the new aircraft were inducted into the fleet. ''We are now looking at our winter schedule of this year, which begins at the end of September. We missed the summer schedule, commencing April, for the simple reason we didn't have any indication of when the [Dreamliner] planes were coming.''

The airline has been given permission by India's Aviation Ministry to fly to Australia and both the Victorian and New South Wales governments have offered significant concessions to attract the carrier to their airports. A 787 Dreamliner could reach Australia's major airports in about 12 hours from Delhi, Mr Sukul said. He said the exact flight schedule was still under consideration.