Air India to add LA, Houston in its list of US destinations
Air India on Saturday said it plans to expand its base in the US by adding Los Angeles and Houston as new destinations, a day after launching the state- carrier's first direct flight from Delhi to Washington DC.
"We are looking at connecting two more cities - Los Angeles and either Houston or Dallas," Air India Chairman and MD Ashwani Lohani said at an event to celebrate the launch of the direct non-stop flight on Friday between the capitals of the two largest democracies of the world.
The direct flight to Los Angeles is expected to be launched by October, while the date for the flight to Houston or Dallas in Texas has not been determined yet, Lohani said. All this is part of the expansion plans of Air India, he said. Washington DC is Air India's fifth US destination after New York, Newark, Chicago and San Francisco.
"Last year we launched four international flights from India. This year we have seven (new) international flights.
New connections, brand new connections. And this is the way we are going to do it," Lohani said, adding that Air India is looking to significantly expand its operations in the US.
The three times a week flight frequency from the US capital could soon be expanded to daily based on passengers' response, he said.
Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe said there is a huge market for people travelling between India and the Greater Washington Area, which would result in full Air India flights.
"Chairman Lohani has said this was a sold out flight today. The flight returning too is a sold-out flight. So, there's a very good opportunity for us if this will go to seven days a week, if there is a continued interest," he said.
The current three days a week schedule will bring over 30,000 visitors to the capital region, he said.
"It will have an economic impact of about $30 million for our region. This is a great deal," McAuliffe said. Indian Ambassador to the US Navtej Sarna, who was onboard the inaugural flight from New Delhi, said the direct non-stop flight between the two capitals is symbolic of the India-US ties which received a big boost after the recent visit of Prime Minister Narendra Modi to America.