Air India’s maiden Delhi-Silicon Valley flight launched

Air India's maiden Delhi-Silicon Valley flight launchedSAN FRANCISCO: Air India’s maiden non-stop flight from New Delhi to San Francisco was given a rousing welcome here as it became the first Indian carrier to directly connect the US’ West Coast, reducing the arduous travel time by nearly six hours.

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 new service has come as a boon to the Indian Diaspora on the US West coast, jubilant passengers said and applauded when the aircraft touched the base.

Venkatesan Ashok, Consul General of India, and several other officials from India and the US 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.

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.

With the flight, Air India became the first Indian carrier to provide direct air connectivity to the West Coast. The national carrier will fly three flights a week on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays using a Boeing 777-200LR aircraft.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to West Coast in September had announced to soon launch the services.

“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 offers a three-cabin configuration, with eight seats in First Class, 35 seats in Business Class and 195 seats in Economy Class.

An airport security official said the flight was the day’s first flight and additional arrangements were made for it.

“The airport immigration office opens at 7:30 AM for the first flight but we opened it today at 5:30 AM to receive passengers from India,” the official said.

San Francisco airport in 2014 catered to a total of 47,074,162 passengers of which 10,269,701 were international travelers.

Earlier, a special cake was cut just before departure at the Delhi airport to celebrate the launch of the maiden flight and passengers were presented with a rose bud each at the time of check-in.

The national carrier had also hosted a contest on micro-blogging site Twitter prior to the launch of its new flight to the US.–PTI

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