On Friday, February 3, Air India announced that it will launch direct return flights between Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport and Washington, D.C’s Washington Dulles International Airport, thrice a week, by mid-2017.

This will be the only airline to offer a non-stop service between the capital cities on its B777. The flight is expected to be about 14 hours one way.

Ashwani Lohani, the chairman and managing director of Air India said: “Air India plans to add 35 new aircraft in 2017 as part of its current expansion and consolidation strategy, allowing us to serve both new domestic and international destinations. The Washington, D.C. metro area will become Air India’s fifth US getaway and reinforces our commitment to providing the most convenient service between the USA and India.”

Currently, the state-owned carrier deploys its B777 on direct flights between New Delhi and Chicago, Newark, New York, and San Francisco. 

Addressing the crowd gathered for the announcement of Air India’s new route, Governor of Virginia, Terry McAuliffe said: “Today is an exciting time for us. Instead of putting walls up around our country, we are taking barriers down and building a bridge which is 7,480 miles (12,038km), opening up new opportunities to link the Commonwealth of Virginia to the great country of India.”  

In 2015, Washington received 1,22,000 Indians. By 2020, this number is estimated to increase by seven per cent. India is the fourth largest overseas market for the state. The introduction of Air India’s Delhi-Washington service is estimated to increase the revenue into the National Capital Region (Virginia, Washington, D.C., and Maryland) to U$30 million. 

The governor added: “We committed 1.25 million dollars to this project for Air India because we understand that tourism is such an important revenue generator. Tourists who will now come here from India will help strengthen our communities, make us stronger.” 

Air India will announce the flight schedule closer to its launch, which will be around July 2017.