Air India, India’s flag carrier airline, would be the first in the world which will operate flights over the Pacific Ocean, the Atlantic Ocean as well as the Polar region, said AI spokesperson.
Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani flagged off AI 173, the first commercial flight from Delhi to San Francisco via the North Pole, on August 15 (India’s Independence Day). The plane is currently on its way to San Francisco. However, in an earlier instance, Air India’s Boeing 777 in 2007 travelled over the polar region.
The flights that go from New Delhi to San Francisco generally fly from the eastern and western route. The aircraft, on the eastern route, go over China, Japan before crossing the Pacific Ocean to reach its destination (San Francisco), while the flights that take the western route fly over Europe crossing the Atlantic Ocean to reach the US. However, the new route goes over Russia, the Arctic Ocean and Canada.
With the new route, the distance between New Delhi and San Francisco has come down from 12,000 km to 8,000 km. The travelling time has also reduced by around 90 minutes. Apart from this, owing to the new route, fuel savings would be in the range of 2,000 to 7,000 kilograms per flight. This route will also help in reducing carbon emission – in the range of 6,000 to 21,000 kilograms, per flight.
The first commercial service would be operated by Captain Rajneesh Sharma and Captain Digvijay Singh, marking the “maturing of civil aviation in India as another frontier is crossed”, said Air India Western Region Director Mukesh Bhatia a few days before the flight was to take off for the US.