Air India Flies Inaugural Bangalore – San Francisco Flight Over North Pole

Air India’s longest-ever route has officially been inaugurated from San Francisco International Airport. The aircraft touched down at Bangalore Airport at 03:07 AM local time after a flight time of 16 hours and 40 minutes. The flight featured an all-female pilot crew, flew over the North Pole, and is Bangalore’s first direct connection to the US.

Air India 777-200LR
Air India has completed the inaugural service of its longest route ever. Photo: Kentaro Iemoto via Wikimedia Commons


Air India’s newest service has quickly gone from announcement to take off. The flag carrier only announced the route in late November and is flying the inaugural service just over six weeks later. Usually, airlines wait anywhere between six months and a year between formalizing a route and actually beginning service.

The inaugural service, Air India flight 176, is being flown by a crew of four female captains. The all-female crew highlights India’s status as the country with the highest percentage of female pilots. While this figure is only around 13%, it continues to grow and soundly doubles the global average of a dismal 5%.

With a great circle distance of just over 14,000kms, the flight will require a backup crew to take over halfway through. For this reason, the flight has four captains onboard the 17-hour service. Additionally, Air India’s Executive Director of Flight Safety, Captain Nivedita Bhasin, is also onboard this flight. The aircraft is in capable hands, to say the least!

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Taking off

While celebrations at San Francisco Airport were minimal, due to the current situation, there were still markers of this record-making flight. The flight crew, government officials, and passengers all had the chance to inaugurate the flight among balloons and ribbons. We can also expect a water cannon salute awaiting the aircraft in Bangalore.

The flight departed San Francisco Airport at 20:58 local time, according to The route is particularly notable since it is one of the few flying over the North Pole on its journey. After departure, the flight north into Canada and entered the Arctic Ocean, flying nearly over the North Pole.

The aircraft re-entered continental airspace over Russia and proceeded to fly over Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Afghanistan, and Pakistan before entering India airspace. The plane landed at 03:07 AM local time and stopped at 03:25, 20 minutes ahead of its planned arrival.

Air India 176 BLR SFO inaugural

While demand for international travel might be down, you wouldn’t know onboard AI176 tonight. The flight is booked out with 238 passengers onboard, including eight in first class, 35 in business, and 195 in economy. While Bangalore has historically been underserved, especially for US routes, that is set to change this year.

First of three

Air India’s inaugural flight from San Francisco to Bangalore is one of three routes from the West Coast to Bangalore this year. United will fly the same route from this summer using a Boeing 787-9. Meanwhile, American Airlines will inaugurate a new route from Bangalore to Seattle this winter.

Air India 777-300ER
Air India is quickly facing competition on its lucrative India-US flights. Photo: Vincenzo Pace |

For many travelers, Air India’s flight today will be a much-needed option after years of connecting flights. Expect a lot more competition and new routes out of India’s rapidly-growing flight hub.

What do you think about Air India’s inaugural service? Would you fly this 17-hour route? Let us know in the comments!