Air India expects to earn 26 per cent more revenues from the India-US sector during the current fiscal even as it will add more capacity to US cities in the ensuing months, a top official of the flag carrier said.
"The India-US sector has emerged as the largest revenue earner for Air India and offers us enormous potential for growth, as we add more aircraft to our fleet," said Jitender Bhargava, the airline's executive director-commercial.
"Our revenues from the India US sector is expected to grow to Rs 33 billion (approx $832 million) in the current fiscal, with a 26 per cent growth over the Rs 26.15 billion that we earned in the previous fiscal," Bhargava told IANS.
Divulging the flag carrier's plans for the US sector in the ensuing months, he said San Francisco would be the next US city on its map with a non-stop flight from Bangalore with effect from August.
"This would connect India's silicon valley with the Silicon Valley of the US, which has a sizeable population of Indians," he added.
"As we add more Boeing 777-300ER aircraft - we have ordered 15 - we will also commence flights to Washington, DC, and Texas, which could be either Houston or Dallas," Bhargava said.
"These flights will have intermediate stops in Europe."
Following the commencement of daily, non-stop flights between New Delhi and New York Feb 8, Air India offers 12,536 seats per week between India and the US on its 38 weekly flights to four destinations.
New York tops the list with 6,293 seats, followed by Chicago with 2,961 seats, Newark with 2,394 seats and Los Angeles with 888. "We also operates code-share flights with Singapore Airlines to San Francisco/Los Angeles," Bhargava said.
"At present, a significant portion of the traffic between India and the US is met by European carriers over the Atlantic and by South East Asian airlines over the Pacific, using sixth freedom traffic rights," he said.
"The scenario will gradually change as Air India and other Indian carriers mount more capacity. Air India, though, will maintain its leadership by enhancing its capacity, introducing more new flight and ensuring a superior product."
Giving a brief history of Air India's operations to the US, Bhargava said the carrier began its first flight to the country with a flight to New York in May 1960 on a 165-seater Boeing 707 - the world's largest and fastest jet then.
"Air India, at that time, has the distinction of becoming the first airline from Asia to schedule flights across the Atlantic to the east coast of the US. The weekly flight operated from Mumbai, via Beirut, Zurich and London," he said.
"Over the past 48 years, the capacity to US was stepped up. Now, since 2002, it has been enhanced quite significantly from 10 flights a week to 38. The US will be our thrust area for years to come."