Air India Is Taking Over Pan Am’s Round The World Flight… Really?!?

Filed Under: Air India, Media

Sunday Guardian Live published an article yesterday about Air India with the headline “AI will fly around globe, emulate Pan Am’s feat.” Naturally I was intrigued!

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Is Air India really going to operate a 10-stop round the world flight like Pan Am did? Well, unfortunately not. As a matter of fact, the article is so off base that it’s sort of amusing, and worth sharing. Per the article:

Air India, the national carrier, is set to become the first airline after perhaps the now defunct Pan American World Airways that will operate a flight that would go around the globe. The Director General of Civil Aviation has granted permission to Air India to go from New Delhi via the Pacific route to San Francisco in the United States. However, on its return journey to New Delhi, the non-stop flight would undertake the path over the Atlantic, thus becoming the only airline in the world whose same aircraft would cover its entire journey by flying around the globe.

Oy! Airlines take different flight paths depending on winds, in order to minimize flight time and fuel burn. As it stands, Air India’s flight between San Francisco and Delhi takes more of an Atlantic route than a Pacific route. I took this flight earlier in the year, and here’s a map of the route it took, which goes over Northern Europe and then Greenland:

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Soon Air India will begin sometimes operating via the Pacific in order to minimize flight time. This won’t consistently be the case, but rather only when the winds mean that will be the fastest route.

So Air India is slightly adjusting the route they’re taking between San Francisco and Delhi, and isn’t taking exactly opposite routes in both directions. What Air India is doing is very different than them channeling Pan Am, or being “the only airline in the world whose same aircraft would cover its entire journey by flying around the globe.”


The article has some other great nuggets in it as well:

Aviation experts say that the earth rotates from the west towards the east and this is also the direction of the wind speed.

Whew, good thing they consulted aviation experts on this!

It’s also interesting to note that a lot of people prefer flying Air India due to their excellent service and hospitality (I’m not sure what carrier they’re using as a point of comparison):

A large number of frequent travellers prefer flying by Air India due to its excellent service and hospitality.

I’m guessing their sample size includes this guy from Air India’s commercial, who has never been to India but always flies Air India:

The article also has an interview with Air India’s chairman and managing director, who admits Air India has some problems… like their website:

He admitted that there were some issues with the Air India website and said that efforts were being made to improve the linkages and the services. Similarly, over the past one year, he has attempted to streamline the in-flight food and beverages services, though there was a scope for further improvement.

Yes, Air India’s biggest problem is definitely their website

  1. The website might not be their biggest problem but I’m glad they atleast acknowledged the fact that’s it’s a part of the problem

  2. I believe Air NZ was the last airline to actually fly around the world when they flew from AKL to LHR via both LAX and HKG (ie one way east, one way west). They cancelled the HKG-LHR leg a few years ago and I dont believe any other airline flies all the way around the world?
    Im sure EK would jump at the chance to operate both SYD-LAX and AKL-LAX so they would also fly around the world but I dont think both the Australian government or QF would allow this.
    If SQ does relaunch SIN-JFK direct then they would be a round the world carrier as they would operate to JFK both direct and via FRA.

  3. But what happen Ben? you had a great time flying Air India in First Class a couple of weeks (or moths) ago, now this article sound’s like you had the worst flight of your life with them.

  4. As if this was great news……As SQ and TG were flying their A345’s nonstop to NewYork/Newark, in many cases, they crossed the Pacific to the US and then flew East to BKK or SIN. In that sense, this is nothing new!

  5. So basically the Air India flight is similar to the SQ flight theater operated nonstop from Newark to Sin, depending on the wind, the pilot could choose to fly either over the Atlantic or Pacific. Definitely didn’t have to go all the way back to Pan Am to find examples….

  6. Air India is probably the only airline which can operate a round the world flight, as you will find some Indians in each and evet corner of this Earth..

  7. Btw Ben, how did you find that website?? I am living in India since last 18 years (or since my birth), I never heard of that website before.. I guess Google Now found that article for you..

  8. In a slightly pedantic view (and according to your flight map), the only time this flight would go over the Pacific Ocean is on it’s way up the West Coast towards Alaska. By the time it gets over water again, it’s North of the Bering Straight, so it flies across the Arctic Ocean. Not a Trans-Pacific.

  9. Ben,Ben,Ben are you spending too much time with Karel exchanging anti-AI views. Don’t do that turned itself into a free site from subscription service.

    DEF-SFO will always be Pacific and SFO-DEL will be over Atlantic so it is sort of round the world flight path.

    With every hour of less flying AI saves 9,600 liters of fuel, DEL-SFO supposed to save 1 to 3 hours of flying time.

    Slightly different from your analysis of all flights changing flight paths on daily basis based on winds. This is more to use jet stream to its advantage on a permanent basis.

  10. AI may not have the best reputation, but the sad thing is that it still beats the junk we have to endure within the US… both on regional and int’l services…

  11. I took the direct EWR-SIN roundtrip back in the mid-2000s and it was a globally route. I dont know if it was operated with a similar route everytime however the EWR-SIN route went over Europe, Middle East, and India while the SIN-EWR route went over Japan, the Pacific, and then entered US airspace around Seattle. The routes may have changed based on winds, load, etc, however in my instance it was pretty neat to circle the globe in only those two flights!

  12. AI is an interesting carrier. There is no much negative publicity on the internet, yet it has highest load factors with highest ticket prices on SFO-India sector even though Chinese and Emirates are dumping capacity and offering cheapest tickets. Either negative ads don’t work theory in action (or) they are better than what bloggers write.

  13. Grammar Nazi
    Go to South Korea and TEACH friends daughter is getting $100K a year to teach proper English.I only know American but it gets me everwheres ..


  14. Flew AUH-LAX recently. Went east over russia. Then return went east again over greenland. So pretty much around the world

  15. As an Indian and having been on AI recently to Paris, I can say AI is one of the worst airline in India. There hospitality is just pathetic, may be the worst among any Indian airline.

    I agree with your vibe in this article. That news piece you based this article on is completely BS.

    If you can, always avoid AI and choose other airlines. You won’t regret it!

  16. UA did a “proper” RTW flight for a couple of years in late 90s, in both directions UA1 and UA2 flew LAX-HKG-DEL-LHR-IAD-LAX.

  17. @Nigel
    Everyone can write BS including this one. Did AI claimed it is a RTW flight or some reporter used this analogy? Quality of blog/report depends on blogger’s correct interpretation and analysis, not if posters have to explain and correct.

    Glad some one gave a proper example of RTW. Even Pan Am 001/002 are not real RTW flights because last leg is incomplete.

  18. Air India is actually good. The only airline which offers Food and IFE on domestic sectors in India, along with 23 kg baggage when others (all of which are LCCs) offer only 15 kg baggage. Be their frequent flyer (its a Star alliance member as well) and you will get seat 1 and emergency row seats for free. I don’t know why people claim to have bad experience with them. Its much better than what any other Indian carrier offers…

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