Air India Could Launch The World’s Longest Flight

Filed Under: Air India

Presently the world’s longest flight is Sydney to Dallas, which is operated by Qantas.


Next year Emirates will take over the title for world’s longest flight, when they launch their Dubai to Panama City flight, which is a whopping 10 miles longer than the current longest route in the world.

For the past few months we’ve been hearing rumors about Air India possibly expanding to San Francisco and Toronto. As it stands, Air India’s only destinations in North America are Chicago (ORD), New York (JFK), and Newark (EWR). The new routes were supposedly going to be launched this winter, though the rest of the details were still being worked out.

While it still isn’t confirmed, I think it’s interesting to note that there seems to be a strong rumor about Air India launching flights between Bangalore and San Francisco, which would be the world’s longest flight. At 8,701 miles one-way, that would be the longest flight in the world by over 100 miles.


Via The Times Of India:

“We are planning to have a nonstop from either Delhi or Bengaluru to San Francisco on our Boeing 777-200 long range aircraft. And in addition we are planning a direct service between Ahmedabad and London due to the huge demand for travel between these two cities,” said a senior AI official.

The announcement for the nonstop India-SFO flight could be made when Prime Minister Narendra Modi travels to Silicon Valley later this week. SFO has no direct flight to India despite a significant Indian population in Silicon Valley and the travel requirement of techies between the two cyber hubs.


The timing is interesting, because it would make sense for the announcement to be made while the Prime Minster is in the Bay Area. There’s not presently a nonstop flight between California and India, and presumably there’s demand for such a route.

That being said, the question isn’t whether Air India can fill a 777 between the two regions, but rather if they can do so profitably. The economics of ultra longhaul flights are extremely challenging, given that there are often weight restrictions on ultra longhaul flights. That means you’re forgoing cargo in lieu of fuel. Furthermore, the fuel burn on such a flight is astronomical.

Regardless, the route is realistically only sustainable with low oil costs, so if the route launches, I wouldn’t count on it sticking around forever:

“All those plans were made when oil was prohibitively expensive. Now oil is a multi-year low and AI has the equipment to operate ultra-long haul flights using its mostly unused B-777 200 LRs. AI had acquired eight of these aircraft and five of them were sold to Abu Dhabi’s Etihad on which it is operating nonstop to Los Angeles. Now AI will also do the same,” said a source.

Air India only has three 777-200LRs left (they sold five to Etihad), and as far as I know they’ve grounded one of them and are using it for parts, much like they’ve done on a brand new 787.

Bottom line

While the economics of ultra longhaul flying are challenging, I’m surprised there hasn’t been an airline which has launched nonstop flights between the regions yet. There are of course lots of airlines providing one stop service between California and several destinations in India (Air France, British Airways, Emirates, Etihad, Lufthansa, etc.), but that’s not the same as nonstop.

Do you think an Air India flight between California and India will get off the ground?

(Tip of the hat to Live from a Lounge)

  1. With all of the troubles Air India’s been having, I wouldn’t fly them intra-India, let alone on the longest flight in the world!

  2. Imagine, flying on the longest flight with rats on board… LOL

    Would prefer doing 236 connections round the world before daring to step on board an Air India flight.

  3. This is one of those “they can” but “should they?” AI should do the flying public a huge favor and NOT do this – will save us a lot of heartache. They are at best a 3rd rate airline and to endure a few hundred miles domestically is a challenge for many of us traveling to India for business, let alone 8700 miles! About the only airline I can think of, that makes the US legacy carriers look almost bearable in comparison (not by much, I might add).

  4. I don’t think most sane people would endure a non-stop on Air India to avoid connecting in the Middle East or Europe on an airline like Emirates, Etihad, etc. For the two or three hours savings it doesn’t seem worth it.

  5. You’ve been believing too much of the Indian garbage media. Neither VT-ALH nor VT-ANI (both of which have been incorrectly reported as having been scrapped for parts at various times) has met that fate and both are very much in service right now.

  6. DEL-SFO makes 100000x more sense than BLR-SFO. BLR overflies most of the country while DEL is AI’s home and the most amount of feed. DEL is also along the logical flight path to SFO, resulting in minimal backtracking for most of India compared to BLR.

    Regardless of what people think about tech connections, the flight should be DEL not BLR.

  7. I’ve done SF to BLR nearly a dozen times via every route imaginable (LHR, DXB, SIN, FRA) and I flew what was previously the 2nd longest flight – Singapore’s 18 hour-ish LAX to SIN non-stop. I can say that I’d actually prefer a one-stop flight vs a non-stop, particularly if was one-stop on a world-class carrier. There’s only so much you can do on a plane for 18 hours and a chance to see something different, even for a short layover is welcome.

  8. @Lucky – From the info I have available, ALG was due for a heavy C check by September 2015 so presumably she is undergoing that right now.

  9. Lucky,

    How would you describe the smell on board with pictures and text When you review Air India? Everybody should get deodorant including men and women no matter in which class.

  10. I second the comment from someone the other day that I would read a Sean M blog – I think the insight into the aviation industry is fascinating.

  11. Air Canada’s launching service from Toronto to Delhi in November. They’ve wanted to do it for a while but have been waiting for the 787-9 to arrive. If it does well, they may add service from Vancouver. I’m sure a one-stop on Air Canada would be preferable to a non-stop on Air India!

  12. I’m surprised that Air India’s only flight to SFO (the whole west coast actually) would be from BLR, which isn’t a hub for them. That would make it hard to connect to other places in India. It is a focus city though. BOM and DEL make much more sense.

  13. I can see a carrier flying this route someday but not sure if I’d fly AI. Similar to what others have commented, I’d rather fly one-stop on a world class carrier in J paid by my company versus flying nonstop on AI at its current state.
    I recall reading another blog article (I forget if it’s yours or VFTW or WanderingAramean) but it stated the future of business class seats is to have a suite that transforms to a bed and also into a desk. With wifi getting faster up in the air, I can see business folks actually working working while on that flight!

  14. Ben, please help me a bit!

    Currently I credit all my oneworld flights to my BA account however as far as I know when I fly a non-BA metal I don’t get the elite bonus just the class of service bonus. If I’m correct BA only honor my elite status with certain airlines like AA, JL and IB.

    However now I’m studying the AAdvantage program and as far as I understand the rules AA would give me elite mileage bonus even on non-AA metal flights. If this is correct then I think I should credit all my non-BA flights to an AAdvantage account instead.

    Am I wrong?

    Thank you in advance!

  15. I doubt BLR-SFO could be profitable for Air India given the marketshare EK has via a one-stop connection. As you say ultra long-haul is a big challenge financially and high yielding passengers (F and J) likely won’t switch for a non-stop given the difference in service and quality.

    DL couldn’t make BOM-JFK work and retreated back to a one-stop through AMS, eventually even via AMS didn’t work and they abandoned the market. India in general is a challenging market.

  16. My favorite flight ever remains the business class SQ 21/22 from Newark to Singapore that I took a few years back. I know there were rumors of Singapore attempting that flight again, I hope they do it.

  17. Economics does not count with AI. They have already taken subsidies of $10 billion and generally lose a billion dollars a year. This in a country where 800 million live on a dollar a day.
    The trick is to look what new opportunities emerge for the bureaucracy to scam some more money. There is no metric that AI is not in the lowest decile on, and given the delays in the network (24 hours is not uncommon) a reliable one stopper would be far more desired by most.
    AI is generally for the lower echelons of the Indian bureaucracy who cannot escape to a better airline and those steeped in Indian culture with specific dietary requirements common amongst Indians

  18. As someone who flies Air India domestically quite often, I think that a lot of judgement and vitriol directed towards it is undeserved. While it can and should improve ground service and on time performance, I do think that it is nowhere as bad as a carrier as news reports and a lot of comments here make it out to be.

    I would love to try out a SFO-India non stop on Air India!

    Do think that DEL-SFO would make more sense given AI’s ability to feed traffic through its primary hub and also DEL’s geographic location.

  19. @ patricia and ChrisM

    I would argue that SFO-BLR makes the most sense since that route probably has the most premium demand of any possible city pair ex SFO to India. Also, as AI can’t compete with the other airlines that people currently use for that route on service or quality, the nonstop aspect would be the only compelling reason to fly AI that they bring to the table. No premium passenger flying SFO-BLR is going to want to connect in DEL when they could fly a LH/BA/a Gulf Carrier/etc. 1-stop as well (not to mention that for the same price they would be able to get two flights in longhaul J/F instead of still having to fly AI ultralonghaul to DEL and then hopping on a domestic AI flight to BLR).

  20. I’d think SFO-BLR would be better served by UA than AI, since SFO is a major UA hub and BLR isn’t for AI. Perhaps AI is trying to undercut what it believes UA is planning for future service. If UA gets the 777-300ER, I’d think that would be a better for this route than the 777-200ER.

  21. 8 Hours to FRA and I go crazy, I cannot imagne 16 or 17 hours. Common! The toilets and entire airplane will become a fetid and harzardous place, Want long reach flights? Wide body and supersonic is the way. Yes it can be done!

  22. As a regular on the Sydney to DFW, I can cope with this as it is on an A380
    A 777 would be challenging to mind and body

  23. I fly SFO-BLR 5-6 times a year and have for almost 10 years. While I would love a non-stop, it would only be on a world-class carrier. Honestly, there are many routes with relatively short connections that break the flight up nicely, and I think I would still prefer that.

    I certainly think there is enough traffic to warrant the flight though, I just think they will have a hard time filling it due to their reputaton.

    It will be interesting to see what the flight timings are though. Many of the flights to India arrive late at night, so it is impossible to get onward connections, i.e. some of the US India flight to DEL and BOM, don’t allow onward connections to BLR, requiring an overnight, in which case I’d prefer a connection in Europe, Hong Kong, or the ME.

  24. Why so much AI hate? Have most of you even flown AI? I fly AI every 3-4 weeks from SIN-BOM/DEL and its always a great experience. I prefer it to SQ since I am allowed to sleep until about 5-10 mins prior to landing on the way back (these are relatively short red-eyes and I go straight to work upon landing). The experience in the air is great although ground handling is certainly lacking.

    Anyway, if this does happen, I expect it will be a one-stop BLR-DEL-SFO flight like many of their other routes (BOM-DEL-PVG, etc).

  25. In true Air India style, this news is a lot of fart & no shit. Even if they do start SFO or Toronto, let’s see how long they can sustain this route. Toronto gas been on line & off line many times ! With AI, it’s start…stop…start…they don’t have the ability to carry out a route viability beforehand. Better to take another airline with one stop (safer, cleaner, better service, better food).
    This airline was once a great icon when managed & owned by JRD Tata. Now it’s the playground of the Indian Government Babu’s. Frankly speaking, if you value your life and sanctity, travel another airline !!!

  26. I’m actually excited to fly Air India in December. Some people say they’re horrible and others say they’re not too bad. I want to see for myself. I may even write something in the forums.
    A321 in Y, A321 in J, and B787 in J. Should be 3 fun times 🙂

  27. Before it was discontinued I flew TG LAX-BKK which was more than 17 hours long. I actually liked it a lot. You got on board, had a leisurely meal, watched a movie, had a nice long nights sleep, got up and ate some more, read some, maybe listened to a podcast and you were there. It felt like one of those long overnight and a day train rides one used to take across Europe.

    Of course we were in first. Coach would have been insufferable.

    Thank you frequent flight miles.

  28. As an Indian, I feel really sad to read these comments about our national airline, however I must be honest and say I wouldn’t fly them either. Air India is a prime example of how a good airline has been completely ruined thanks to the corrupt politicians (including the ex aviation minister Mr. Patel). There are numerous reports of how many Gulf Based airlines and airlines in India (Jet/ Kingfisher etc) paid these ministers to get profitable routes which Air India (& Indian Airlines) gave up for no apparent reason. Also, majority of the seats are reserved for politicians, bureaucrats & their families. Many of us Indians have been pushing the new Government to shut down the airline altogether.

    Other Indian based airlines like Jet Airways, Indigo Airlines are prime examples of how efficient businesses can be run (Indigo is highly profitable and has a 98% on time record) by Indians.

  29. The Del-Sfo route has been long proposed due to the outstanding potential this route has of connecting north india with the west coast directly but this being Air india , i dont expect this plan to go into practise , atleast succesfully .

  30. I’ve never flown AI international.. but have flown several dozen AI domestic flights over the past few years. I can verify that it is the worst airline in India- in all aspects of operation.

    I would rather fly Spirit than AI… and that’s really saying a lot.

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