Air India Plans Bangalore To San Francisco Route

Filed Under: Air India

A couple of days ago we learned that Air India is planning two new routes to the US as of early 2021. Well, both of these routes are now on sale, which means we have a better sense of the schedules, etc.

One of these will be particularly interesting, given service recently announced by both American and United.

Air India launching two new US routes

It was recently revealed that Air India will be launching two new US routes:

  • Air India will fly between Bangalore and San Francisco
  • Air India will fly between Hyderabad and Chicago

Air India’s two new planned US routes

This is especially interesting because all of Air India’s current US routes operate out of Delhi and Mumbai, so it’s cool to see Air India add service from new Indian markets to major US markets. Back in 2015 there had been talk of Air India launching a Bangalore to San Francisco route, but that never came to fruition.

With the flights now for sale (though unfortunately I don’t see any award availability yet), let’s take a look at the schedules:

Air India’s Bangalore to San Francisco route

As of January 11, 2021, Air India will launch 2x weekly flights between Bangalore and San Francisco, as follows:

AI175 Bangalore to San Francisco departing 2:30PM arriving 5:00PM
AI176 San Francisco to Bangalore departing 8:30PM arriving 2:30AM (+2 days)

The US-bound flight will operate Mondays and Thursdays and will take 16hr, while the India-bound flight will operate Tuesdays and Saturdays and will take 16hr30min.

As you can see, the dates in both directions don’t match up, and that’s because Air India will be “swapping” planes in San Francisco between the Delhi and Bangalore routes (since Air India also flies from Delhi to San Francisco).

The Boeing 777-200LR that will be used for this route features three cabins, including first class, business class, and economy.

Air India’s Hyderabad to Chicago route

As of January 15, 2021, Air India will launch 1x weekly flights between Hyderabad and Chicago, as follows:

AI107 Hyderabad to Chicago departing 12:50PM arriving 6:05PM
AI108 Chicago to Hyderabad departing 9:30PM arriving 12:40AM (+2 days)

The US-bound flight will operate Fridays and will take 16hr45min, while the India-bound flight will operate Wednesdays and will take 15hr40min.

As you can see, the dates in both directions don’t match up, and that’s because Air India will be “swapping” planes in Chicago between the Delhi and Hyderabad routes (since Air India also flies from Delhi to Chicago).

The Boeing 777-200LR that will be used for this route features three cabins, including first class, business class, and economy.

The US to Bangalore market is heating up

Up until now there have been no nonstop flights between Bangalore and the US, but that’s quickly changing;

United will launch daily San Francisco to Bangalore flights

Now Air India wants to get in on the fun as well. A few things stand out:

  • At ~8,700 miles, this will be Air India’s longest route
  • Air India is beating United to the punch here, as Air India’s Bangalore flight will launch several months before United’s
  • While Air India and United have a partnership through the Star Alliance, the two airlines don’t have a joint venture, or anything, so it’s not surprising to see the airlines competing head-to-head in many markets
  • While San Francisco to Bangalore is a significant business market (or at least it was pre-coronavirus), I’ll be curious to see how the presence of Air India and United evolves in the market; is 9x weekly flights just right, or will we see either airline increase or decrease service?

Air India’s 777 first class

Bottom line

Air India plans on launching new routes from Bangalore to San Francisco and Hyderabad to Chicago as of early 2021. The flights are now on sale, so hopefully they actually happen, because Air India is also known for backtracking on new routes.

We could soon have three airlines flying nonstop between Bangalore and the US, along with one airline flying nonstop between Hyderabad and the US.

What do you make of Air India’s US expansion?

Comments
  1. Air India?

    Will there be enough jet fuel in the tanks to make it all the way?

    Will the pilots be qualified to fly the plane? Will the pilots be sober?

  2. Basically, BLR-SFO is for:

    1. Tech entrepreneurs & VC investors
    2. Infosys corporate travel

    Personally, I doubt if BLR-SFO would survive even with only 2 flights per week, especially considering that even Shenzhen hasn’t had any direct flights to SFO during the 2014-2018 boom of US flights among 2nd tier Chinese cities.

  3. The default presumption here is that this is due to commercial reasons. That’s inherently risky with Air India. This could simply be because a senior government official has interests in connecting their daughter who lives in Chicago to their hometown in Hyderbad (and i’m saying this with full conviction that there may very well be commercial reasons that could make these routes successful). AI leadership is boycotting Mumbai which typically has high yield traffic because of being the business capital. Lucky, if you note their EWR-BOM route has now been downgraded to a 787-8 which previously used to be 777-300ER. We could see AI deploy that to one of these routes.

  4. It’s kind of funny how San Francisco will have 9x weekly nonstop flights to Bangalore (1x daily UA + this 2x weekly AI) and 16x weekly nonstop flights to Delhi (1x daily UA + 9x weekly AI), assuming conditions go back to pre-pandemic levels next summer, yet not a single nonstop to Mumbai, India’s most populous city. If you can fly SFO-BLR nonstop, you can totally fly SFO-BOM nonstop as well. Plus, the Bay Area has a large Indian population that should be capable of filling up a Boeing 787-9 or even a 777-200LR to a city with a similar size to Delhi. Not sure why still no airlines are taking advantage of that. Given that United’s already going to fly SFO-BLR nonstop daily, AI should instead launch SFO-BOM nonstop to ensure a strong coverage of SFO-India traffic. Generally, in my opinion, tourist destinations aside, highly landlocked cities like Delhi and Bangalore tend to not appeal to me quite as much as coastal cities like Mumbai or Chennai.

    Source: https://worldpopulationreview.com/countries/cities/india

  5. Air India seems to have a knack at making even new fitouts instantly look shabby but not chic!
    Tumeric has never been a popular colour for aircraft decor, yet AI persists.

  6. I need to go to India eventually but given Air India BLR-SFO and some of the other airlines with a connection, I would choose the connection. For the last trip, I stopped in Singapore and rested a day because I don’t want to arrive in India drowsy. In contrast, I am not scared of arriving in Singapore drowsy.

  7. Tumeric covers/hides the dirt better.

    Less cleaning required.

    However it cannot hide the terrible service.

  8. They should first serve other destinations missing on the map there is not much traffic from the Bay anyways; also from BLR destinations further southward makes more sense.

  9. I highly doubt the Hyderabad service will fly and the Bangalore service , well let’s wait and see – I’d choose United over AI and that’s saying something !!!!

  10. I dont understand why airlines give more preference to BLR rather than HYD…I live 200kms away from HYD…Know both the demands from HYD and BLR…Basically both have same demand to US and Europe(BLR slightly ahead)…HYD has always been neglected in the past…Hope Airlines consider flying to HYD in the future…Also AI has been neglecting BOM in recent times,either of AI or UA should had considered BOM-SFO rather than BLR-SFO

  11. I like the comment “ Will Air India have enough fuel left in the aircraft to fly all the way to San Francisco?”.
    You know what, I am asking the same question about British Airways and many other airlines. Forget your comments for the time being and see how many airlines actually survive to fly. Fuel can be bought later.
    Don’t you worry folks, even if Air India runs out of fuel, many other airlines will bend twice over to try and get business from this route. So it is just a matter of a patient wait. There is a saying , “ He who laughs last, lasts!”

  12. Its just the matter of time…once US – india bubble agreement is over..they will reroute it through delhi

  13. @Mike – a few modifictations. Delhi + NCR would be the most populous city/region in the country (46 million +). The load factor on flights from Delhi are continuously high since DEL serves as the international gateway to some of the most populous surrounding states. While BOM may be more attractive to some (depends on tastes), it is a very inconvenient hub airport due to its location. I am an expat living in Pune for 9 years and still prefer to use DEL has a hub than face the rush in Bombay traffic. So much so that they are building a new international airport outside of Bombay to attract more travelers to use it as a hub. Finally, tourists form a relatively small portion of airline travelers to/from India. Therefore, it is impractical forming airline strategies on where non-nationals intend to travel. The domestic market in India is lucrative with DEL-BOM being the busiest city pair globally.

    Not sure why people have such emotive reactions to AI. I doubt most have even flown on AI, yet the trashy comments. From my experience, I would prefer AI to AA, UA, DL, and BA any day.

  14. I pity people who have to fly by AI.
    So dirty, nasty and such extremely poor service from reservation, baggage, food and hostess. Plus, I doubt AI will survive this long.

  15. @Emily – I would actually disagree with that. Speaking from experience of having flown AI+UA+AA over last 2 decades (lived in DEL/BOM/ORD/NYC areas), i’ve understood that BOM has far better yield due to business traffic which has considerable interest for global airlines, while still retaining enough load factors. I also think it has enough O&D traffic which reduces the dependency on its hub status. UAL for example has long operated EWR-BOM using 777 for the marathon 16h ULH sector that is notoriously hard to turn profit on, yet upgraded recently to a 77W which is MORE premium heavy AND continued the daily frequency throughout COVID.

    While I agree that over the years Air India has consolidated most operations out of BOM over to DEL for political reasons, nearly all other airlines have a huge presence in the BOM area. It still remains the second busiest. The second airport that they’re building is for capacity reasons because CSIA is simply maxed out. I don’t necessarily think that’s to mitigate the risk to the city’s ‘hub’ status. While it sucks that the Pune-Mumbai commute sucks, I don’t think that’s the target consumer for ultra long haul flights out of BOM 🙂

  16. @Sarthak @Steven E @Lucky

    The Chicago-Hyderabad flight has been there for years, except that the flight had a stop in Delhi.

    Contrary to popular belief, the Hyderabad flight will be
    commercially successful.

    1) Most don’t know that Telugu is the most spoken Indian language in the US( Ie. the US is the most popular among people from Telugu speaking states(Where Hyderabad is), and they are currently one of largest demographic of Indians/the target audience (500k to a million people).

    2) Hyderabad is a huge tech hub. Apple and Amazon are setting up shop there, and it’s second to Bangalore for tech related business.

    It has nothing to do with a government official, and South Indians have had a long standing demand for direct flights to the South, considering that every flight ends up flying to Delhi.

    For those that don’t know, Most flights to India from the US are to Delhi and Mumbai, given that Northern India dominates most of the central government and Air India.

    The Indians from Bangalore, Hyderabad, Chennai and other indian states take Middle east arlines given that the transit times and services are more convenient, and they have the largest market share for US/Can -South India ( I would rather take a layover without having to pick my bags up twice, and also not clear immigration in a busy airport at 2am, and wait till 7/8am to take my connecting flight).

    With more non stop services to this demographic centered areas (say Dallas-Hyd and New York -Hyd), I’d be less inclined to take Emirates or Etihad, even if it means the service will suck, as long as they have cheaper prices and they interline with UA for US domestic services.

    Sounds like a good plan to me.

  17. Should this be done on 787-8 through some destination in between HYD/BLR and ORD/SFO? The load factors seem to cater more to that, because there is a virus which has wiped out various carriers from all four destinations mentioned, but there may not be enough load for a 777 on both unlike Delhi.

  18. I really feel that Bangalore Chicago would have made more sense because now Bangalore has 3 airlines operating to the west coast of the United states and 0 airlines to the east coast and Hyderabad San Francisco or Hyderabad Los Angeles would have been a better idea. I think Air India has taken a hasty decision considering the fact that United is planning the flight to Bangalore with a 787-9 daily consisting of there new Polaris product. I also feel that the 777 200lr of Air India is not up to the standards for an ULR flight which will last upto 17 to18 hours long. I think that Air India should replan there flights. I remember that air India used to operate these routes as a fifth freedom flight via Delhi. So I don’t think during Covoid these routes are feasible. There is a reason why United is starting the flights from May 2021. I also feel the 787-8 of AI is more suitable for these routes.

  19. Air India has made money this last quarter due to the Air Bubbles which basically shut out ME3 SQ CX and TK from ferrying pax India-US. Due to this they are getting ambitious and launching these routes.

    Once Air Bubbles are dismantled there are a huge chunk of pax who go out of the way to avoid AI. They are a govt owned shabby airline with poor products and services. IFE’s are broken and the cabins are dated. They are not a patch in comparison to the ME3 or for that matter even UA.

    I had to travel during COVID for compassionate reasons from India to US and back and I chose UA over AI though the latter was a bit cheaper.

  20. @Sarthak – Have to disagree. Delhi provides a greater selection of airlines and flight options for International Travel. BOM has options but DEL just has more, even without considering AI. Passenger figures – discount AI if desired – reflect that . As someone living in Bangalore and requiring travel in both directions, DEL is always the better option. DEL simply serves a larger population zone, with a lucrative mix of business and leisure travelers. BOM is fine and has some interesting connections, but it still comes in second, as you said so.

    On the topic of AI, I cannot comment since my country boasts the dismal three, which are equally bad, if not worse. All I know is that Air India will continue to survive, especially due to its long established support to the nation in times of need.

  21. The market is clearly there (in the future) but I would highly doubt any of these routes, including the UA and AA routes will launch in 2021. Air India is also one of the worst airlines on the planet so my money would be on UA sticking with this route when it does finally launch and AA retrenching or indefinitely postponing it.

  22. I’m so glad to see more flights to India. Flights to HYD and BLR are long overdue. Pre-pandemic, I flew United’s EWR-BOM flight for the past 5 years once a month for business and to visit family. Hope to also see more flights to BOM as that is the commercial capital and premium cabin heavy.

  23. Hate it how the Modi government is trying it’s best to reduce the importance of Mumbai. First by trying to move a lot of financial activities to Gujarat/Delhi and then not starting a single useful flight from Mumbai during the last few years.

    Mumbai used to be a very important and the busiest airport in India about 10-15 years ago. It still is the busiest single-runway airport in the world. With the Navi Mumbai airport coming up, that also with the new Pune airport might make a good airport system for western India.

    Jet Airways, which used to be the soul of Mumbai airport, departed and left a huge void (and opportunities) in the Mumbai airport market. The government did not help Jet Airways to survive, like it does with Air India. Another attempt by the center to not help a Mumbai based airline to survive.

    Mumbai’s flights to Newark and New York go full. Even Delta chose Mumbai over any other city for their nonstop and that flight was doing well until the pandemic hit.

    I’m hoping now that at least Vistara, currently India’s best airline will choose Mumbai over Delhi for flights to USA, but chances of that are slim.

    Also about quality of Air India- I think their food is one of the best in the world, especially for Indians. When I flew BOM-EWR I was given 3 full meals- this was back in 2016. As for the service- it’s typical Indian non-pretentious service, which non-Indians may find it rude but that’s how we Indians talk- no fakeness. But everything else about AI is bad – their flight tech/reliability. Though I would anyday choose AI over Emirates – because the later tends to discriminate against people of color.

  24. I used to live and work in India and not a single person I knew would ever fly AI from India to the US. Maybe, at most, they’d use them to travel within Asia or Europe where they mostly use 787-8.

    There are so many quick, one-stop routes from India to the US with reputable, decent airlines. I would never want to be stuck on their 777s — even if it meant saving 3 to 4 hours of travel time. No thanks!

  25. As a Swiss based out of India for the last 25 years, I find the views and comments above quite interesting. Here are my two cents as one who has a love-hate relationship with India.

    AI is simply a low-frill method of getting Indian families in the most convenient way possible across the world. It serves an experience that is familiar to Indians and food that is comfortable. Period. It doesn’t and never will care what those on this blog or similar media outlets think. The airline has the government’s backing and will always do to some extent since it plays a major strategic and political role. It completes the major transportation duopoly for the country with the other being the railways.

    On the topic of BOM vs DEL – airlines will expand where growth is visible and that is DEL over BOM. Even 25 years ago, DEL was the primary port for international travel for India. It’s equally premium segment heavy as BOM and serves as the gateway for a large(r) population. Simple. Sucks for those who live in BOM or PUNE, but DEL continues to be the gateway to India and will probably always be so, regional biases aside. It’s amazing to see how many people are polarized on the topic of Bombay and Delhi. In that respect, I am happy to see greater focus on the cities that are dreadfully underserved, such as Hyderabad and Bangalore, which frankly have higher growth over BOM and DEL.

  26. Happy that Vistara has decided to introduce Mumbai-London! Hoping that they introduce a Mumbai-New York in the future too! Even a BOM-LHR-EWR is okay. Also hope they tie up with Virgin Atlantic or Delta at London to provide connections to the US. Tie-ups with British/American/United are just sad.

  27. @Rajesh – that basically exemplifies the point I was trying to make. I don’t think airlines make a business case by doing a google search of ‘rankings by population of big cities in India including the 35 villages nearby having nothing to do with international travel’.

    While Jet’s exit brought about a natural demise for the DL JFK BOM (a bummer because they were bringing Delta One on their refurbished 772s), Vistara clearly wants to pick up that unmet demand.

    Icing on the cake – Their codeshare with UAL might just help them get connecting US traffic from LHR (UA has tremendous presence there flying in from all sorts of hubs) both for DEL and BOM routes. This seems to be a very smart move!

  28. @Trevor,
    Sure, when AI was just one of many one-stop options, lots of people, Indian and non-Indian, wouldn’t step foot on AI. But having nonstop service changes that. Lots of people will tolerate a somewhat subpar inflight experience to avoid being stranded in some strange country for a day if you miss a connection for any reason.

    Heck, lots of people fly HYD-DEL-ORD right now, because it’s a tag-on flight on the same aircraft (so technically a direct flight, but not a nonstop), simply because that way you never have to worry about missing a connection. Sure, you might be delayed by 4 hours, and the seat is worn, but that beats overnighting in FRA or HKG or somewhere due to snow or monsoons, respectively.

    We avgeeks on blogs like this are a strange bunch 🙂 We actually like being on airplanes or checking out airports in distant cities. Most of the rest of the world, even frequent premium travelers, will pay a lot and sacrifice quite a bit of the inflight experience to cut a few hours of time in the air, and avoid hassles with connections.

  29. @Lune It’s definitely that, but I personally avoid ME3 due to its discrimination against people of color. I feel respected when I fly with airlines like Delta, Virgin Atlantic, Singapore, Jet Airways (no longer operating) and Air India (because I’m Indian, I just relate to their service well). Plus my Air India flights have always been on time, had the best food and decent service (at least the flight attendants didn’t only favor white people like on ME3). A few other airlines where as an Indian I feel discriminated are British Airways, KLM and Alaska. United and American are just bad for everyone in general.

    There has been an announcement today that Tata will be bidding for taking over Air India, so there are hopes that it will be in good hands and their service will improve.

  30. I know I have heard significant issues against Air India, but having flown Air India frequently over the last five years, my impression have been very different. Firstly, they are no Emirates, Singapore Airlines or the likes. In terms of competition to the Asian airlines, AI is behind in service and onboard amenities. However, when compared to most of the European and American airlines, I see little to discriminate. In fact, I was quite impressed by a recent trip to Bangkok from Delhi in economy. I don’t recall an airline in Europe which provides the legroom/space I found on AI’s economy. The food was fantastic. The hospitality also great – especially being recognized as a *A gold member, on board by the FA. This is why the negative comments baffle me, especially when we have airlines which are terrible in economy. My thought is that many people who speak harshly of AI have never actually flown them or their view of AI is formed by their prejudice against India.

    Glad to see airlines increasing service to equally relevant cities. I understand why DEL will always be the international gateway to India, especially due to a large fraction of travel generated by official travel.

    @Sarthak – your comment with respect to Delhi and surrounding villages is a little ridiculous. The same can be said for Bombay. Frankly, BOM and DEL would lose around 30-40% of their traveler numbers if the younger cities get good airline connections. It’s high time people shifted away from DEL and BOM as the only major airports in India – especially given how congested and inefficient both are.

  31. @Ria
    I completely agree. AI’s IFE is terrible in my opinion, but everything else about them ranges from tolerable to great, at least as far as my experiences in international Y and domestic Y/J go.

    But that’s just my opinion.

  32. Where is Atlanta, Montreal, LA, Texas, Seattle, Boston, Florida, etc.? These need to be served too. Not everything is based out of their present destinations in US.

  33. I note that these flights BLR-SFO and HYD-ORD have their departures in the afternoon as compared to their flights from DEL-JFK / BOM-EWR / DEL-SFO which are overnight flights.

    For the average traveller (which happens to be 70-80% pf the total flying population), they care about getting a flight from point A to point B at the cheapest economic price. They do not particularly care about luxury / amenities.

    And this is especially even more true for non stop flights where they believe they can save time and money.

    So they’d be more inclined to fly o AI flights.

    However, for frequent travellers and mile high status flyers (the 10-20% of the total flying population) for whom premium / luxury is a focus, I can totally understand why they would have a disdain for AI which has never marketed itself as a “luxury carrier” unlike the ME3.

    I think these flights to SFO and ORD are good steps they have taken, especially as they are non stop and coming from southern cities.

    For someone who values economical flying / saving time / non stop, these routes would be suitable.

    However, if luxury is your thing, better off sticking to the ME3.

    And yes, it is true that most of the premium passengers fly from BOM mainly, however in terms of hub and current size, I can understand why airlines are more inclined to prefer DEL over BOM.

    Although with the introduction of direct India-US flights from BLR / HYD, that could cause a shift in traffic.

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