Air India’s first flight from New Delhi arrived at SFO before dawn. (Image: Peter Biaggi)
Air India’s first flight from New Delhi arrived at SFO before dawn. (Image: Peter Biaggi)


SAN FRANCISCO (Diya TV) — Once recognized for its lavish amenities, meticulously kept aircrafts, and five-star service, Air India suffered a fall from grace. Now, the once proclaimed “great king of the international skies,” is poising for a second run at the throne.

Air India, the Republic’s national carrier, which has recently been maligned for lackluster amenities, service, and a lack of routes, has undertaken a reinvigoration, and has its sights set on the United States. The airline has ordered new planes, and cleared the path for more and newer routes, a program which has been forged by Prime Minister Modi.

Speaking at an event in Sept. 2015, the Prime Minister made clear the San Francisco was the airline’s primary target for its new hub in the Americas—solidifying his wish to bring Indian-Americans in Silicon Valley, and beyond, closer to India itself. At the same time, he’s presented a serious challenge to the Air India team to bring this initiative back to life—one on a time-sensitive schedule, which they delivered on.

Pankaj Srivasta, Air India’s Commercial Director, spoke to Diya TV on just how quickly the Prime Minister wanted the turnaround to be on this project when he approached the airline. “Two months ago when the Prime Minister visited San Francisco, he made an announcement that Air India would soon be flying, and he left us with less than two months time to put everything together,” he said.

Consul General Venkatesan Ashok, who played a key role in facilitating the new marriage with his San Francisco base, described his surprised reaction to Diya TV.

“It is a remarkable fact that we have managed to do this in such a short time,” Ashok said. “It’s probably a record of some sort.” He further opined that the relationships between the United States and India—in business, education and politically—are strengthening daily, and this marriage represents how strong the bond is between the two countries.

The flight, even in direct form, between the two countries, remains one of the longest in commercial aviation. Even while flying non-stop, the total trip time is 17 hours.

Perhaps the availability of direct flights has already had an immediate positive impact on the airline—in January of this year, India Airlines reported they would be inducting 30 new Airbus A320 aircrafts, taking its total fleet size to 150 over the next three financial years.