Flying to San Francisco to be shorter, likely cheaper

Flying to San Francisco to be shorter, likely cheaper

By SHAILENDRA TYAGI | New Delhi | 3 September, 2016
Pankaj Srivastava, Director-Commercial, Air India Ltd.
The proposed flight, from Delhi to San Francisco over the Pacific and its return via Atlantic, would shorten the tedious journey time (of over 34 hrs) by about 2.5 hours.
Air India’s move to fly directly to San Francisco over the Pacific Ocean, instead of Atlantic, is a smart innovative endeavour backed up by sound economic rationale. The proposed flight, from Delhi to San-Francisco over the Pacific and its return via Atlantic, would shorten the tedious journey time (of over 34 hours) by about two and a half hours. And the commensurate fuel savings that might be passed on would also chin-up the price sensitive Indian passengers. After getting a positive nod from the Director General of Civil Aviation, the state-owned carrier is still waiting for some more clearances before commencing the proposed flight “Hopefully before the year-end” says Pankaj Srivastava, Director-Commercial, Air India Ltd. Flying over Pacific would help the national carrier to save up to 13% of its fuel cost, which should be welcomed considering its poor finances. Globally, fuel has been the single largest cost item for airlines constituting over one third of their operating expenses. 

It is a very innovative decision being taken by the Air India management, appreciates Jitender Bhargava, former Executive Director, Air India.  It reflects a better thinking to fly in the direction of tailwinds which can be leveraged to enhance aircraft’s speed with less usage of fuel. Unlike head-winds that slow down the pace of the aircraft, tail-winds gently push the aircraft to move smoothly with less pressure on its engine. The other point that one needs to look at is the geographical positioning of San-Francisco, says Bhargava, who explains that San-Francisco is equi-distant from New Delhi, so it makes nodifference if one flies to the Silicon Valley via Atlantic or Pacific. But as the proposed flight is non-stop, flying it over the Pacific ensures better economics. “As nobody (Indian carrier) has done it before, so Air India needs to be complimented for this.”

Techies are also demanding a similar flight from the South Indian cities of Bangalore and Hyderabad. Given the large population of Indians working and residing in Silicon Valley, the direct flight to San Francisco would be an attractive route with strong traffic flows driven by businesses related to the IT industry.  However the profitability on the single route might fall way short to resurrect the finances of Air India. What can make things worse for the airline is the un-healthy competition that airlines often enter into by passing the entire fuel savings on to its customers.

This benefits the consumers but bleeds the industry.

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