The crew of the first non-stop flight from Delhi to San Francisco joined in pre-takeoff celebrations at the airport. Image: Indira Gandhi International Airport

Air India Opens New Flight Route to San Francisco Following Prime Minister’s Visit


Air India commenced its new three-times-a-week flight between Delhi and San Francisco last month, making it the first-ever Indian carrier to offer non-stop service to the west coast of the US. Each passenger was given a rosebud at check-in for the maiden journey, and a special cake was cut at the Delhi airport just before departure. The San Francisco airport opened two hours early to welcome the passengers, and held a trivia contest on Twitter under the hashtag #nonstopairindia to celebrate what they called “India Day.” With a flight time of 17 hours, the new route reduces travel time by 5-6 hours for passengers who previously had to fly first to Chicago or the New York area before catching connecting flights to the west coast.

The new flight was announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his September visit to Silicon Valley and other American locations. Following the announcement, officials from Air India and the FAA worked closely to get the flight off the ground in under two months. This type of collaboration is indicative of new levels of regulatory and industrial cooperation between Asian nations and the Pacific coast of the US. Chinese president Xi Jinping also made high profile business meetings a priority on his own September visit to the region, connecting with executives from Boeing and Microsoft among other leaders of American industry in Washington State.

As of the 2010 census, California was home to the highest population of Asians of any American state, while Washington was seventh. California’s exports to Asia and number of jobs supported by those exports are the highest of any state, while Washington’s jobs supported by exports to Asia, as well as the value of goods exports to Asia, are the first and second highest per capita, respectively. Prime Minister Modi has been called “India’s Greatest Salesman” for his accomplishments in connecting his country’s burgeoning markets with the robust industries of the United States. The new travel link between Delhi and California is both a result of, and supports, the significant and growing financial and cultural ties between India and the US West Coast.