Wednesday, November 25, 2020

Air India to start Hyderabad-Chicago and Bengaluru-San Francisco nonstops in the New Year

New Delhi: Air India will start a direct flight between Hyderabad and Chicago from January 9, 2021, making this the first scheduled service between south India and the US. The Bengaluru airport on Wednesday announced AI will start a twice-weekly nonstop between Bengaluru and San Francisco (SFO) from January 11, 2021.

United is scheduled to start direct flight to this route from May 6, 2021. And next winter, Amrican Airlines plans to connect Bengaluru to Seattle.

A senior AI official said, "We plan to launch Hyderabad-Chicago as a twice weekly from January 9. The date for Bengaluru-SFO is yet to be finalised. We are awaiting US transportation security administration (TSA) clearance for both these routes."

The privatisation process for AI is on and aviation minister HS Puri has often said that failure to find a buyer could mean curtains for the Maharaja. As of now, the deadline for bidding for AI ends next month unless the same is extended again.

While AI future depends on it getting a buyer, south India will see direct connectivity to the US. Due to Covid, people will want to travel nonstop between India and North America and not one-stop via hubs in the Europe, Gulf and southeast Asia. So India-North America, especially US, is a huge market for airlines flying direct.

If AI gets a buyer and the new owner decides to continue the routes, then Hyderabad-Chicago and Bengaluru-SFO routes, could continue if not more by the privatised Maharaja. Then United and American Airlines have planned their own launches. Vistara is also looking at starting direct flights on India-US routes.

Currently while scheduled international flights to and from India remain suspended, these flights are being operated under an air bubble between India and the US.

At 8,701 miles (about 14,003 km), the Bengaluru-SFO nonstop will be the longest route to be operated by AI and any US carrier. 

25/11/20 Saurabh SInha/Times of India

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