The inaugural Air India flight arriving at San Francisco International Airport, Dec. 2. (SFO)
Air India’s inaugural nonstop flight from New Delhi to San Francisco was given a rousing welcome with a reception and ribbon-cutting ceremony at the San Francisco International Airport on arrival as it became the first Indian carrier to directly connect the U.S. West Coast, reducing the arduous travel time by nearly six hours, writes Zishan Haider. (#Travel, #AirIndia, #SFO, #Siliconeer, @Siliconeer, #isiliconeer, @isliconeer, @narendramodi)
The airport traffic control tower in San Francisco was lit in the Indian tri-color to welcome the 230 passengers aboard the Air India flight AI 173.
The flight to Delhi, AI-174, has received an overwhelming response with a booking of 95% within its initial days of opening of bookings. The flight from Delhi landed at San Francisco with a full complement of passengers on board.
The new service has come as a boon to the Indian diaspora on the U.S. West coast, jubilant passengers said and applauded when the aircraft touched the base.
Ambassador Venkatesan Ashok, Consul General of India in San Francisco, and several other officials from India and the U.S. attended a formal ribbon-cutting ceremony to mark the beginning of the services.
“It is a remarkable day and today is a great day for Air India” Ashok said.
“I am pleased to welcome Air India to San Francisco – the Innovation Capital of the World,” said Mayor Lee. “By creating the first-ever nonstop service between San Francisco and Delhi, Air India has united two great cultural and economic centers of the world. As the only nonstop flight between India and the West Coast of the United States, I fully expect this new service to be a success.”
“I am excited that Air India has selected SFO for their newest route in the United States,” said Airport Director John L. Martin. “This service firmly establishes our Airport as the premier gateway to Asia and the Subcontinent, and provides an unparalleled level of global access to our guests.”
The city mayor’s office declared this day as ‘Air India Day’, a symbolic gesture to celebrate the arrival of the first direct flight from India.
“Starting a direct flight within two months was a daunting task but we made it possible with the cooperation from US officials,” an Air India official said.
The flight saves a lot of travel time. People earlier used to go to Chicago to take a flight to India, said Abhinav Kuru, an IT professional from Hyderabad and one of the passengers.
“This direct flight has reduced the travel time by 5-6 hours. Earlier, it used to take about 23 hours but with this flight it is just 17 hours,” said Kuru.
The flight from San Francisco will provide onward connections to cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Kochi, Ahmedabad, Pune and Bhubaneswar. Likewise, passengers from seven cities, all IT hubs, in India i.e. Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Ahmedabad and Pune will have seamless connections to the flight from Delhi.
The in-flight entertainment system offers a wide range of latest Hollywood and Bollywood movies, movies in other Indian and international languages, TV shows, documentaries, games and more, which will appeal to all age profiles. First and Business class passengers can enjoy the comfort of flat beds and emerge fresh after the long flight. Ample legroom and seat pitch make Economy travel comfortable too.
The flight AI-174 from San Francisco will be operated with B777-200LR aircraft and will depart at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays and arrive at Delhi the next day (Thursdays, Saturdays and Mondays), at 4:15 p.m. The flight AI-173 from Delhi to San Francisco will leave Delhi on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays at 2:35 a.m. This flight will arrive San Francisco at 6:00 a.m. (local time) on the same day. The flight will offer a 3-cabin configuration, with 8 seats in First Class, 35 seats in Business Class and 195 seats in Economy Class.