Air India Planning Flights To San Francisco and Toronto

Filed Under: Air India

Air India joined the Star Alliance about a year ago, and I’ve been itching to redeem miles for a flight on them in first class ever since. After all of the fascinating stories I’ve read about them, I feel like I need to experience Air India firsthand.


I mean, if it’s half as good as they make it seem in this commercial, I’m sure I’m in for a treat:

As it stands, Air India’s US destinations include Chicago, Newark, and New York JFK, so they have the east coast and midwest fairly well represented.

However, it looks like two other cities in North America may receive Air India service as early as this winter. Via Business Standard:

“We are planning to introduce direct flights services to San Francisco and Toronto from the Winter schedule this year. A firm plan, however, is still being worked out,” they said.

The airline proposed to fly three weekly flights each to San Francisco and Toronto from New Delhi with a B777-200 LR aircraft, which is likely to be reconfigured for more seating capacity, they said.

Both of these would be logical destinations. The Bay Area has the second largest Indian population in the US, and there’s quite a bit of tech traffic between the Bay Area and India. Meanwhile, Air India flew to Toronto until 2012, at which point they axed the route.


Air India has only three 777-200LRs left in their fleet, as the rest of them have been taken over by Etihad and reconfigured. Let’s keep in mind that Air India isn’t especially good about maintaining their fleet.

It’s interesting that the 777-200LR will possibly be reconfigured with a higher seating capacity — hopefully it doesn’t lead to the elimination of first class. Ironically the Air India 777-200LRs actually have double as many first class seats as the larger 777-300ERs. Maybe they’ll just cut first class down to one row to match the 777-300ER.

Bottom line

In theory this expansion makes perfect sense. There’s presently not a single airline flying nonstop between San Francisco and India, despite the large Indian and tech population in the Bay Area.

The only “catch” here is that we’re talking about Air India, which doesn’t even have flat beds in business class. So despite the convenience of the route, it wouldn’t surprise me if Air India can’t win over quite as much premium market share as they’re hoping to.

But that’s a challenge no matter where Air India expands to. Here’s to hoping these routes get off the ground!

Would you fly Air India from San Francisco or Toronto to Delhi?

  1. I can’t imagine a scenario where I’d prefer to fly Air India than connecting on Lufthansa, Emirates, Etihad, etc — all of which have India departures timed well for USA arrivals.

  2. Well, if it is direct flight, then it will be too long, I wonder if they will add a stopover.
    Jet Airways used to have routes from west coast to India, but it had a stopover at Shanghai. Jet Airways, however, met certain finical difficulties afterwards and thus ceased the routes.
    If anyone has the right to accuse ME3, then it shouldn’t be US government but India government. ME3 basically crashed the Indian airlines industries.

  3. @Justin I would . Because ME3 do not have decent frequent flyer programs, I’d rather Fly Air India and credit it to either United or Aeroplan.

  4. For what it’s worth, I’m Indian-American, and oh my god that commercial is the funniest thing I’ve seen in ages. “Are you Indian?” *crickets*

  5. Etihad is using Air India planes as well now? I thought they were only using Jet Airways planes?

  6. between their general unreliability, their equipment unreliability and their sheer lack of service i would not fly AI if I was paid to do so. by a wide margin the worst airline in the world..

  7. That commercial is indeed funny …

    OK, I am an American Indian so just want to state some facts about Air India. I have been flying since 1989 but never had an opportunity to fly AI (when my tickets were purchased by others), and made sure I dont fly AI (when I bought my tickets) … here we go …

    1. AI is managed and operated by Government of India (Read, lack of ownership and accountability)
    2. Operating inefficiency is at its peak due to various reasons including but not limited to control of government officials on flight departures (Read, a government official/minister/or his relative/or friend can delay your departure)
    3. Maintenance/Spare parts – Sorry to say but I will not trust my life on Indian government officials’ procurement ethics
    4. A small Technical issue – SFO to Delhi will be around 18 hours. This is destined to be ‘loss making route’, unless they decide to send bags by another cargo plane. (Read, less passengers, high fares, 2 sets of crew….. remember Singapore Leadership express from LA to Singapore which stopped flying)
    5. 50% of the flight arrivals/departure to/from Delhi get delayed due to ‘fog’ during winter (Read ‘Smog’)

    If I must use Air India (which I would love to some day as a 1K and * Gold, and 5 annual trips to India), I would fly United to Hong Kong (from SFO) and fly to India (multiple destinations) from HKNG using AI.

    All the best!!

  8. Just to correct what some commentators have said – the SFO-DEL route would be shorter than the SFO-DXB, so by no means will it be difficult to operate.

    I’m Indian, flown AI in India and internationally (and now live in the US), and am surprised how people think the airline is so bad, especially in comparison to UA. I largely blame the Indian media for this – they are the epitome of tabloid nonsense, and since we Indians love our drama, we tend to overhype small issues. Yes, some issues are inexcusable (pilots flying around with fake licenses, falling asleep in the cockpit), but lets be honest – we’ve heard the same things from a lot of airlines.

    I’ve had many a pleasant flight with them, and while they aren’t the best, they are more than tolerable. When I fly back home in Economy I usually choose a European airline simply because I don’t like 10+ hour flights. But I would any day choose Air India over the American (when they used to fly to India) or United if I wanted to fly direct, as their food can be amazing. And the new DEL and BOM airports are fantastic (I’d argue just as pleasant to connect through as any European airport). You should definitely give them a chance

  9. @HG I think Air India may want to add a stopover, however, it could be hard.
    BKK and SIN are still too far away.
    PVG and HKG are extremely busy, especially HKG, since Hong Kong people are strongly protesting against adding third runway of HKG airport.
    Same happened for ICN, though it is a little bit diverted.
    TPE, MNL, CGK are kind diverted and not really designed for transfer.
    So, only choice left is NRT. Which would make sense to me given there are not many flights between India and Japan.
    However, it would be very very very difficult for Air India to compete with Japan Airlines / ANA on this routes.
    Without stopover, it is going to be hard for this route to be profitable. Usually airlines, make most of profits from premium cabin and cargo. But flying this length would require cut down seats and cargo weights.

  10. My folks travel on them twice a year now. Their service is subpar and yes they do have flat beds on their long haul to NYC area. Still I would never fly them given all the bad press they have received. I’d probably be nervous waiting on the oxygen masks to drop out.

  11. Interesting that AI will be flying to Del along with AC from YYZ. Let’s see how that works out. One of them will be axed for sure by next year.

  12. According to gcmap, SFO & DEL are 7,706 miles apart. According to Wikipedia, the range of the 777-200 LR is 10,811 miles. Seems doable.

    I’m flying from HYD (southern India) to SFO this winter, and I don’t have too many options. The only options with one stop are EK via DXB, BA via LHR, or CX via HKG. (I don’t want to do the EY via AUH on 9W aircraft.)

    Oh and I can’t use my AA miles on CX b/c AA requires US to India trips to be transatlantic. 🙁
    I’m tempted to fly SQ (and Silk) with 2 stops but that’s 76,500 miles for business.

  13. I’ve said for a while that starting more direct US to India routes is the best way that the US carriers can compete with the Gulf Three. Given their aging, unionized workforce, significantly raising the service standard is probably a tough target to hit, but eliminating the stopover out of one of the biggest air markets in the world would be an attractive selling point. Sadly this news is coming from AI instead of UA.

  14. @Chris M. I would suggest you do a position flight to BKK. There lots of deals out from BKK. Some people find Emirates business class under $2000 from BKK to NYC.

  15. According to, AI is considering putting in 310 seats(!) in a B772, up from their current 235. That’s more than American’s densified configuration (which will be ~289 seats with 37J and 3-4-3 in Y).

    If that’s true, I suspect no one on this board will want to sit on this plane for 16+ hours in economy, period. That’ll be one uncomfortable cattle class. Not as bad as AC’s 458-seat 77HD, but this is a smaller plane.

  16. Competing directly with Air Canada’s new route, huh. Air Canadas 787s have reverse herringbone business class.

  17. “San Francisco has the second largest Indian population of any city in the US…”

    Could you please cite your source for this as I do not believe it is correct.
    I would venture that Chicago or Houston have larger Indian populations than San Francisco.

  18. @Will – I think he means San Francisco Bay Area, which does have the 2nd most according to 2010 census data.

  19. @Chris M — and he writes “city”. The San Francisco Bay Area is not a city, rather a collection of them.

  20. @Will – Yep. As written, the sentence is incorrect: “San Francisco has the second largest Indian population of any city in the US.”

    @Lucky – Your somewhat rational fear of Air India is clouding your judgement.

  21. I just heard from my American Indian tenant in Hong Kong that the Cathay HKG-SFO route is mostly filled with Indian passengers.

  22. When I told the res agent I was a pilot, she hired me over the phone. What’s great is I got to be captain and first officer at the same time. That required nap time was no problem. The autopilot filled in nicely.

  23. I wonder how many of the people criticizing AI actually have flown recently and are going by media reports. I am on an AI flight from London to India every other month and my experience has been mostly good. I do agree that when things go wrong, they just don’t know how to handle it at the airport. But in the air, it has been a consistently pleasant experience.

  24. Very narrow view from someone who has never flown AI. AI is just fine in the air though their ground handling is lacking. I live in Singapore and prefer AI to SQ when I travel to/from BOM or DEL since AI allows me to maximize sleep as opposed to SQ who keeps one away on a red-eye. AI does have lie-flat seats (at least on the 787). I have flown AI DEL-SYD/MEL-DEL and it was a great experience and I’ll say the service was superior to what I receive on SQ. btw, all of these trips are in business class.

  25. @ Rob — They do have some Air India planes, but these are ones they’ve actually configured with Etihad interiors, unlike the Jet Airways ones, which they didn’t modify at all.



  27. I wonder if this will mean more seats available on SQ 1 and 2 since the SFO – HKG – SIN – (Indian city) is quite a popular route and I believe SQ and AI codeshare.

  28. Haven’t u travelled in new air India? Right now we need direct flight to san Francisco, Houston, Los Angeles, Washington, Dallas and Toronto as well. … As far I travelled in AI, the food and air hostesses serving are good. …. Air India is now star Alliance partner. I always prefer Air India for a flight to ***.

  29. its high time that airindia being the national carrier should start to sanfransico y bcause manypeople like to travell on airindia the only problemis that the ticketing cost is way high and people like to go on other other carriers airindia has got a lot of traffic to sfo they must start from bombay bcause during the winter the planes never land at delhi bcause of the bad weather pls start bom to sfo nice to fly by airindia the indian carrier which tata made
    proud to be A INDIAN TO FLY AIRINDIA

  30. In a heart beat!!!
    If Air India had a direct flight from SFO to DEL- I home to another- I would fly Air India today!!!
    Pls do it! The BAy area will give AIR INDIA FULL flights. give us decent service, food & good conditions & who would miss a chance to shave time off their travel??

  31. I would prefer Air India to any airline to fly from Toronto to Delhi and back. Air India has the best performance on safety as far as the aircraft is concerned. We look forward to fly Air India.

  32. I am 1K in UA and fly UA quite a bit to Asia. I have also flow AI from India to Singapore. The service in AI was similar or better than UA, the leg room in economy was not a lot different than UA’s economy plus. Plus the screen size was much bigger than UA (on the seat back). Also UA’s 747 do not have individual screens. Overall, I would definitely prefer this flight to travel to India compared to flying in UA or that junk that Singapore Air puts out in the name of Silk Air.

  33. That advert is so totally full of rubbish. As if seasoned travelers would actually choose air India over other airlines. I’m forced to fly air India as it’s the only direct flight to India and it’s overnight flight so I sleep and wake up in delhi.

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