Air India to soon fly over the Pacific to San Francisco

Air India will soon start flying over the Pacific Ocean region, saving significant fuel costs and time, in its already lucrative direct services from Delhi to San Francisco.

Aviation regulator DGCA has approved Air India's new route and, reports said, the national carrier is planning to double the frequency of its Delhi-San Francisco direct flights to six per week from November.

The pacific route would be about 1,400 km longer compared to the current flight path across the Atlantic, but there would be significant saving on fuel and journey time due to powerful tailwinds, officials point out.

Besides reducing the flying time by three hours, the Pacific route will help reduce fuel burn helped by weather conditions and speed of winds.

The new route will be a "win-win situation" for the carrier as well as passengers as it would save time and fuel costs, officials pointed out.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued detailed operational circular while approving Air India's request for services through the new route.

"The Boeing 777-200 LR aircraft, used on the Delhi-San Francisco route by Air India will get only strong tailwinds on its eastward journey and cut flying time by up to three hours," according to a senior Air India pilot.

The plane, on an average, burns 9,600 litres of fuel for each hour of flying. Reducing the flying time to SFO from an hour in summer to three hours in winter (due to high tailwinds then) will mean huge fuel savings, making it a win-win for fliers and the airline as passengers will reach San Francisco faster while the airline will burn less fuel.

On the other hand, westward flights face strong headwinds that decreases an aircraft's actual ground speed and more fuel is spent, which retards speed and increases fuel consumption.

"While taking the western route to San Francisco, we usually face headwinds of 24 kmph. If our aircraft is doing 800 kmph, its actual ground speed is 776 kmph. Taking the (eastern) Pacific route to San Francisco will mean getting tailwinds of 138 kmph which will make the aircraft have an actual ground speed of 938 kmph," the pilot said.

The new route will save one hour in flying time in summer and up to three hours in winter, compared to the Atlantic route, says the official.

Jet Airways had used the eastward route for its Mumbai-Shanghai- San Francisco service some years ago, but the airline had stopped the service.