Air India has taken delivery of its first 777-200LR (Longer Range) Worldliner to become the first India-based operator to offer direct, non stop flights between the US and India starting August 1.
The first 777 from its order of 68 Boeing jetliners was handed over to India's national flag carrier at a ceremony on Thursday at the Boeing company's plant in Everett, Washington.
The new plane makes its inaugural flight from Mumbai to New York's John F Kennedy International Airport on August 1. The airline will receive an additional three 777-200LR Worldliners and three 777-300ER (Extended Range) airplanes this year.
"Air India is connecting India to the world and is doing so in a manner that combines real economic advantages for the airline and a positive experience for our passengers," said V Thulasidas, chairman and managing director of Air India.
"Boeing's 777-200LR is the most technologically advanced passenger aircraft in its class and will enable Air India to fly passengers around the world with direct, non-stop routes."
Air India's $11.6 billion order for 68 Boeing jetliners, placed in December 2005, was the largest commercial airplane order in India's civil aviation history in terms of price.
The order consisted of 23 777s, including eight 777-200LR Worldliners and 15 777-300ERs, and 27 787-8 Dreamliners. Additionally, Air India Express, a wholly owned subsidiary of Air India, ordered 18 Next-Generation 737-800s.
The 777 family of airplanes is popular with passengers and airlines because of its fuel-efficient twin-engine design, high reliability, low operating costs and comfortable and spacious interior. It is the market leader in the 300-400 seat segment, capturing more than 65 percent of that market, Boeing said.
With the 787 Dreamliner and 777, Boeing offers a complete family of airplanes to cover the 200-400 seat market segment. With complementary range, speed, efficiency and operational commonality, yet differing seating and cargo capacities, airlines can use both models in their fleets to tailor capacity to meet seasonal demands, it said.
"The 777 delivers proven economic leadership and a very high level of passenger comfort," said Dinesh Keskar, Boeing Commercial Airplanes vice president, sales.
"Air India and Boeing embarked on a strategic fleet renewal and expansion plan in 2005. Today, we are seeing the results of that vision, plan and partnership coming together."
Air India's 777-200LR will have a three-class configuration, including eight first-class cabins, 35 executive class and 195 economy seats. All executive class seats will turn into flat beds and economy seats will be larger, at 18.5 inches in width.
Passengers also will have access to an in-flight entertainment system provided by Thales on video screens that measure 23 inches in first class, 15.4 inches in executive class and 10.6 inches in economy. Additionally, the airplane will be able to carry up to 15 tonnes of cargo.
Air India operates approximately 170 flights a week, carrying over 5 million passengers a year to 59 cities worldwide from various points in India. Its subsidiary, Air India Express, operates 116 services a week to 10 destinations in the Gulf and South East Asia.
Air India, which is celebrating its 75th year of operation this year, operates 24 weekly flights to the US, including a daily service to New York via London and a daily service to Newark and New Jersey via Paris.