Air-India marks 70th anniversary in US

Wednesday, 23 October 2002, 07:00 Hrs   |    3 Comments
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EDISON: Air-India celebrated its 70th anniversary here with a grand reception and the announcement of three flights a week between Mumbai and Newark via Paris from December 3.

Officials of India's flag carrier said the U.S. was the only country outside India where the airline celebrated its anniversary.

Around 450 guests attended the event, including officials from the Consulate General's Office in New York, representatives of the travel trade, members of community organisations and the airline's frequent fliers.

It included a concert by Falguni Pathak, who sang pop and Hindi film numbers, Jazz fusion by Paule Jeanine and her quartet, Kuchipudi dance by Sudha Narayanaswamy and a sit-down dinner, which followed a reception.

Addressing the guests, Consul General Pramathesh Rath said in its 70 years of existence Air-India had not only laid emphasis on passenger services but also addressed the requirements of a national flag carrier.

He said the evacuation of Indian nationals during the 1991 Gulf War was "the single largest in civil aviation history." Rath also hoped that Air-India would get a good response for its flight to Newark.

Air-India's commercial director V.K. Verma, who had travelled from Mumbai for the occasion, recalled that the airline -- which was called Tata Airlines earlier -- began operations on October 15, 1932, when late business baron J.R.D. Tata flew a solo flight between Karachi and Mumbai.

The aircraft was a light, single-engine Puss Moth carrying mail. Today, the airline, which was renamed Air-India on July 29, 1946, flies to 41 destinations.

Verma also thanked Air-India passengers for backing the carrier during the difficult times since September 11 last year. "Post 9/11, the passenger load factor had dropped from 70 percent to 10 percent. Now, we find that our patrons have returned."

"We are pleased to announce that in the first six months of this year, we have made four times the profits last year."

Andy Bhatia, the area passenger sales manager, hoped that when the Air-India flight lands in Newark on December 3, thousands of "Asian Indians will be there to welcome the passengers".

The flights arrive at Newark on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays and leave past midnight. He said Air-India hoped to eventually increase the frequency of the service to seven days a week.

Booking for the December 3 flights have already commenced.

According to Air-India officials, the flag carrier started operations to the U.S. on May 14, 1960, to New York, and earned the distinction of being the first airline of an Asian country to schedule flights across the Atlantic.

Air-India currently operates a daily service to New York's JFK airport and three flights a week to Chicago's O'Hare airport. In addition, it has code-share flights with Singapore Airlines from Los Angles to Singapore via Taipei, with Asiana for the San Francisco-Seoul sector, and with United Airlines for a Washington-Delhi service.
Source: IANS
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