And now, Air India to fly nonstop to Washington

Passengers may soon be able to fly nonstop from India to Washington in the United States, as civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju said on Saturday that Air India is considering a direct flight to and from the US capital.

Raju was speaking at an event hosted by Air India in New Delhi ahead of the launch of its new direct flight from Delhi to San Francisco, which starts on 2 December.

The national carrier had briefly operated a flight from Washington to India via New York a few years ago, but it lasted only a few months. Passengers were required to do the immigration checks in New York, which many found inconvenient.

Air India is now ''considering starting a direct flight to Washington as well as serving new cities in the US soon after it launches its services to San Francisco.''

At present, Air India operates direct flights to India from three airports - New York's JFK International, Newark Liberty International and Chicago O'Hare International Airport.

Until now nonstop flights to India have been available from only two metropolitan areas of New York and Chicago in the US, and the two Indian cities of Delhi and Mumbai. Only two carriers operate nonstop flights between the two countries: Air India and United, which has 14 weekly flights.

Air India operates 21 weekly flights. But that number is set to increase by another three with the launch of its San Francisco operation next week. From San Francisco, it will operate three days a week, Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

United operates daily nonstop flights from Newark to both Mumbai and Delhi.

A senior Air India official was quoted as saying that, apart from direct services to Washington, ''the carrier would be looking at the feasibility of connecting more number of cities in the US from various places in India''.