National carrier Air India is considering launching services direct flights from New Delhi to San Francisco and Toronto this winter following removal of restrictions on domestic carriers to expand their operations in the US after the security update by Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).
The state-run airline also plans to reconfigure its Boeing 777-200 LR to meet these proposed services, airline sources told PTI. “Currently, Air India operates flights to New York and Chicago. We are planning to introduce services direct flights to San Francisco and Toronto from the winter schedule this year. A business plan, however, still being developed” They said.
The airline proposed to fly three weekly flights each to San Francisco and Toronto to New Delhi with LR B777-200 aircraft, which is likely to be reconfigured for more seating capacity, they said.
Air India had earlier also plans to operate its services to the city on the west coast of the United States, which has the second largest population of Indians in America that remains untouched by any window or direct service by Indian Airlines. However, the plan failed to take off for one reason or another. Air India also used to operate a nonstop flight to Toronto from the national capital, which was suspended in 2012 after incurring heavy losses on the route.
Air Canada, which had also brought its services in India for the same reasons, in 2007, has already announced the resumption of direct air links between the two countries from November this year.
The B777-200LRs 235 seats are at present three classes configuration first, business and economy class. There is however, a proposal to reconfigure these planes in two classes of cabin and end the class and also reduce some of the business class seats, sources said. This would expand the number of places for these aircraft to 310 seats, they said, adding, Air India is likely to incur $7.5 million as cost of reconfiguration.
The airline had acquired these eight B777 as part of your order 67 Boeing aircraft in 2006. The airline sold five of these aircraft to Etihad Airways, keeping remaining three of the fleet.
After induction of these aircraft, Air India got them reconfigured to 235-seats against the industry practice of 290 to 300 seats. The idea behind this configuration was to operate in ultra-long-haul routes such as Chicago, New York, Toronto, etc., on subscription fees. The plan, however, did not work, forcing Air India to sell aircraft to the Gulf company.