Air India will fly an all-female crew on its San Francisco-Bangalore inaugural flight later today. The flight is Air India’s longest, spanning over 16,000km and takes 17 hours and flying over the North Pole. The newest route comes as both American and United launch their own services from Bangalore to the West Coast.
Air India flies the route using its long-range Boeing 777-200LR fleet. Photo: Timothy Dauber via Wikimedia Commons
Air India will operate its inaugural service from San Francisco to Bangalore later today, a market that is quickly becoming competitive. The flight will be operated by four pilots (working in rotations due to the length of the flight) who were all female, highlighting India’s largest and growing female pilot population.
The 17-hour hop requires a complex routing over the North Pole, which is likely why four Captains were chosen for the inaugural service. In a statement to India.com, Captain Zoya Agarwal said,
“Most people in the world will not see the North Pole or even its map in their lifetime. I feel truly feel privileged and humbled by the trust posed in me by the civil aviation ministry and our flag carrier. It is a golden opportunity to command a Boeing 777 inaugural SFO-BLR, one of the world’s longest flight over the North Pole.”
Air India’s woman power flies high around the world.
All women cockpit crew consisting of Capt Zoya Aggarwal, Capt Papagari Thanmai, Capt Akansha Sonaware & Capt Shivani Manhas will operate the historic inaugural flight between Bengaluru & San Francisco.@airindiain @MoCA_GoI pic.twitter.com/HKT6IYo2Dw
— Hardeep Singh Puri (@HardeepSPuri) January 9, 2021
While the new Air India route will be Bangalore’s first connection to the US, more airlines are coming soon. United will launch its own Bangalore-San Francisco service later this summer using a Boeing 787-9. In the winter, American will launch its own Seattle-Bangalore route, adding the third Bangalore-US route in under a year.
While international travel demand remains quite low overall, Air India is already finding success on this particular route. The inaugural flight today is completely booked out, with all 238 seats sold to passengers, according to Bangalore Mirror. This includes eight in first class, 35 business in class seats, and 195 in economy.
Bangalore has been a particularly underserved city to the US despite its high revenue yield. However, the new routes ensure that there are more options and competition for passengers who have long taken connecting options.
The outbound flight from Bangalore departs at 14:30 local time and arrives in San Francisco at 17:00 local time, a 16 hour flight time. The return flight leaves SFO at 20:30 local time and arrives at 03:45 AM (+2 days). The flight timings, particularly the return, are quite convenient for business and leisure travelers.
As mentioned, the route will be flown by Air India’s 777-200LRs. The airline only operates three of these aircraft, averaging 11.5 years, according to Planespotters.net. Only two are currently in service and are found on the Delhi and Bangalore to San Fransisco routes.
Air India privatization
While Air India might be launching new routes to maintain its dominance in the India-US market, it’s currently in the process of privatization. The end of December saw all bids for the airline formally be filed, with the Tata Group currently looking like a frontrunner. While the process has been delayed repeatedly due to the current aviation crisis, we could have a new Air India owner by the summer.
What do you think about Air India’s new route? Will it beat out United and American? Let us know in the comments!