As the US prepares to welcome fully vaccinated international travelers from November 8th, India’s soon-to-be-privatized national carrier Air India has decided to increase the frequency of its flights to the country. There’s never a shortage of passengers flying between India and the US. With COVID cases in India on a steady decline and the US becoming increasingly comfortable to allow international visitors, Air India seems ready to milk the opportunity.
More flights to the US
Air India will add three more weekly flights to the US from the second week of November, between Mumbai (BOM) to Newark (EWR). With a flight duration of around 15 hours, United Airlines also serves this route using a Boeing 777-300ER.
Anticipating a good demand for US travel, Air India had also announced earlier this month its decision to increase frequency between New Delhi (DEL) and Chicago (ORD) from six to seven days a week.
#FlyAI : Air India will increase frequency between New Delhi & Chicago from 6 to 7 days a week effective 03rd Nov ' 21 to 23rd March'22.
Bookings opened through Air India Website, Booking Offices, Call Centre & our Authorised Travel Agents. pic.twitter.com/OjKX1rHChr
— Air India (@airindiain) October 16, 2021
Following India’s severe second COVID wave earlier this year, flights to the US had dropped significantly. This was most apparent during the fall season when thousands of Indian students flew to the US for higher education. With travel restrictions in place and limited flying options at that time, ticket prices increased enormously.
According to a Times of India (TOI) report, Air India will have 26 weekly flights to the US once the Mumbai-Newark service starts.
Even as the aviation sector begins to emerge from the shadows of COVID-19, Air India is facing issues with keeping some of its aircraft in flying condition. The TOI report quoted an AI official commenting on the flights to the US,
“So AI will have 26 weekly flights, a number that could have been much higher if we had more Boeing 777s available and had so many of them not been down with maintenance issues.”
It may be noted that Air India serves the US with its 777 fleet, with the only exception being the Delhi (DEL)-Washington (IAD) flight, where it pushes its Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner to its flying limits.
Apart from the 777s, Air India also has several airplanes from the A320 family grounded for want of new engines. In its current state of debt, the carrier is simply out of cash to replace engines on some of its grounded narrowbodies. With Tata Sons expected to take over the airline soon, it’ll be interesting to see how they optimize the existing fleet.
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Demand on the India-US sector remains perennially high. The steady increase in the Indian diaspora in the US has resulted in many Indians calling the US home over the years. This, coupled with the popularity of American universities and Indians being employed in many US tech companies, results in a steady flow of VFR, student, and business passenger traffic between the two countries.
While Air India remains the carrier with most direct flights between the two nations, the US carriers are also trying to level up.
United Airlines connects Delhi and Mumbai with Newark using its 777-300ER and Delhi with San Francisco and Chicago using the 787-9 Dreamliner. On October 14th, United announced numerous flights and destinations for summer 2022. One of them will be a daily flight between San Francisco and India’s technology hub Bengaluru beginning May 26th.
American Airlines, too, is set to return to India in a few days with direct flights between Delhi (DEL) and New York City (JFK). It’ll further expand its network to India in January 2022 with direct flights between Seattle and Bengaluru. The carrier has also announced a new codeshare agreement with IndiGo covering select routes out of Bengaluru and New Delhi.
As air travel around the world shows signs of recovery, connectivity between India and the US also seems to be bouncing back.