In the present study, we tested the hypothesis whether flight-related traits such as wing area, flight-muscle ratio, wing loading and dispersal yield evidence of geographical variation in nine wild-collected as well as laboratory-reared (at 21°C) latitudinal populations of Drosophila melanogaster from the Indian subcontinent. We observed positive clinal variation in the wing–thorax ratio, wing aspect ratio and wing area, along a latitudinal gradient for both the sexes. In contrast, geographical changes in three parameters of flight ability, i.e. flight-muscle ratio, wing loading and dispersal, showed negative correlation with latitude. On the basis of isofemale line variability, we observed positive correlation of wing loading with flight-muscle ratio as well as dispersal behaviour in both the sexes. We also found positive correlation between duration of development and wing area. Interestingly, southern populations of D. melanogaster from warm and humid habitats exhibited higher flight-muscle ratio as well as the higher wing loading than northern populations which occur in cooler and drier climatic conditions. Laboratory tests for dispersal-related walking behaviour showed significantly higher values for southern populations compared with northern populations of D. melanogaster. Multiple regression analysis of geographical changes in flight-muscle ratio, wing loading as well as walking behaviour as a function of average temperature and relative humidity of the origin of populations in wild-collected flies have suggested adaptive changes in flight-related traits in response to steeper gradients of climatic factors in the Indian subcontinent. Finally, adaptive latitudinal variations in flight-related traits in D. melanogaster are consistent with results of other studies from different continents despite differences due to specific climatic conditions in the Indian subcontinent.