A tail parade of each of Air India's Boeing aircraft as in 2011. The 747-400, 777-300ER, 777-200LR and 737-800.
A tail parade of each of Air India's Boeing aircraft as in 2011. The 747-400, 777-300ER, 777-200LR and 737-800.

Air India’s New Delhi San Francisco schedule ignores Bangalore

Air India has loaded the schedule of its much anticipated New Delhi San Francisco non-stop service, into the global distribution system.

AI173 departs* New Delhi at 02:45 and arrives San Francisco International at 06:00
AI174 departs* San Francisco International at 10:00 and arrives New Delhi at 15:35 the next day
*all departures on Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays

Yet, inexplicably, the carrier has virtually ignored India’s technology capital, Bangalore, the station with one of the, if not the highest traffic to San Francisco.

Virtually every foreign airline operating the Bangalore San Francisco route goes out of their way to reduce connection times at their hub airports to ensure the lowest overall trip duration, all in an effort to gain passengers. Lufthansa leads the pack with a slim 85 minutes. In comparison Air India has connection times of about four hours in each direction at its New Delhi hub, thus negating all the benefits of their non-stop flight. By not amending its New Delhi Bangalore schedule the airline makes an outbound passenger from Bangalore to San Francisco to fly AI 404 which departs at 20:15 and reaches New Delhi at 23:00 and then wait almost four hours to connect to AI173 to San Francisco at 02:45. On the return the passenger reaches at 15:35 and then has to wait over 4.5 hours at Delhi and connect to AI 504 to Bangalore at 20:10.

Emirates is the fastest with a overall trip duration of 22h10m from Bangalore to San Francisco and 21h45m on the return. Hong Kong’s DragonAir and Cathay Pacific are close behind at 22h15m and 23h05m. Lufthansa takes 23 hours onward, but returns in a record time of 21h15m. Air India’s total trip duration 23h15m to San Francisco and 23h10m on the return.

Has Air India forgotten that Bangalore is known in airline circles as the station with the highest yielding economy class traffic in India? The technology companies want to keep their workers happy, and are willing to pay the higher fares with their 100% frequent flier mileage accumulation and schedule flexibility.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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  1. I’m hoping AI will be wise enough to change the domestic schedule soon, ideally should not be a big issue.

  2. Sir, is there a traffic stats from Bangalore to SFO?

  3. AI really does not know how to make money.

  4. Cathay or Emirates are better options for flying this route any day. AI only wants to keep the politicos happy with a mantle show piece

  5. Prashanth Kuchibhotla

    I doubt AI can attract enough Premium traffic. On such a long sector, you need strong Premium traffic to make it work; the yields in the back will be poor. Most corporate traffic in SFO area would already have been promised to UA/LH or EK. They can dump fares to get some leisure traffic, but that means the route doesn’t make money.

    Honestly, the only role for AI longhaul that could be viable is to feed its Star friends in FRA/MUC/ZRH, with maybe directs to LHR. There is no point trying to build a wider network far away from home, EK has an iron grip on that from India. AI can take a lesson from QF/VA and their partnerships with EK/EY.

    Of course, the B772LR is ill suited for just European routes, it’s designed for longer range.

  6. Behramjee, that flight is AI403 16:35 departure. Less than MCT. http://airindia.in/time-table.htm

  7. IMHO I do not see the total onward & return journey time between BLR-SFO is worse than others. Although I would have preferred the direct flight between BLR-SFO. I also think the frequency should have been at least 4-5 times a week to achieve better route economics. AI should seek to have a deep partnership with UA or LH to tap the American & European markets. They cannot afford to expand on their own. AI needs to take a leaf out of QF/EK partnership.

  8. COK has the same issue as with BLR. Better among the lot seems to be MAA and BOM. But yes a tweak in the domestic sector would be spot on even for other late nights from DEL.

  9. Darshan Alawani

    But could Air India have started a Bangalore – San Francisco instead of Delhi – San Francisco flight??? I mean would it be feecable??

    • 1. BLR-SFO route is much much longer. It will literally extend the 77Ls range to its limits and/or take a hit to cargo and passenger load that can be taken.

      2. AI connections from BLR to other major airports are barely few when compared with DEL.

      3. Pax to/from destinations in North and West India require great deal of backtracking to connect with/from a BLR-SFO flight. This will negate the time advantage for many non BLR pax.

      These factors imply not only that a BLR-SFO flight would be much more expensive to run, but also lead to much lesser yields. Simply put it, the SFO flight is more about connecting India with U.S. West Coast directly than with Silicon Valley alone.

      • Yash Vardhan Khullar

        You explained it perfectly to those cribbing the flight should be from BLR. Still with reduced connection times, AI can be the fastest option to SFO from BLR.

      • BLR-SFO yields would be more than DEL-SFO as there would be more corporate bookings from BLR-SFO.
        If you say Pax to/from destinations in North/West India require great deal of backtracking to connect with/from BLR-SFO flight, what do you say for pax to/from BLR or other South Indian destinations to connect to any Australian/South African or any southern countries ? Like any other profitable airlines, Air India should ideally have second hub in BLR to connect to southern countries.
        So its not really the profitability, that is being considered here, as you would already know how profitable Air India is, with all the tax payers money put in, its more of a political reason this route is added.

        • Yash Vardhan Khullar

          Just because people from the south have to back track to go to Australia sometimes is not reason enough. Also Delhi is a larger market with more connections. Even if its a political reason, Delhi would bleed less than BLR. How do you know BLR yields would be more. This info I got from a forum:The O&D demand between India and SFO in 2014 round trip was as follows:
          DEL 135,000
          BOM 83,000
          BLR 81,000
          HYD 54,000
          MAA 46,000
          CCU 10,000
          AMD 10,000
          COK 10,000
          TRV 4,000

          BLR cannot even support a daily A319 forget about a 777

          • Interesting, thanks for sharing the info, could you please share the link to this reliable source please. I don’t see Amritsar here, i read news some time back that the Sikh community were requesting AI to start Amritsar to SFO non-stop flight, as there is a large Sikh community in the US West Coast & Canadian west coast who travel to Amritsar.

          • Yes, I am on the same forum, and while these numbers may not reveal everything. Bangalore is a high yield traffic compared to other Indian stations for the same destination. Passengers ex Bangalore pay one of the highest fares for the same destination compared to other Indian cities.

            If the BLR-SFO route was so poor, I see no reason for west bound carriers to make the BLR-SFO connection at their hubs the closest. In fact when FRA-SFO was re-timed, Lufthansa re-timed BLR-FRA to match.

          • This is the funny irony of aviation in India. A foreign airline cares more about their profits in fly between SFO and BLR that they’ll do whatever it takes to make connection at FRA as less as possible, while AI won’t do anything remotely the same for their own home airports.

            Devesh can I ask you what does stop AI from adjusting BLR-DEL AI flights to reduce transfer time at DEL? Is it just laziness or isn’t there enough crew or some other Mx issues?

          • Yes, as mentioned by Devesh, the least the AI could have done is to have BLR-DEL-SFO, like the other routes HYD-DEL-ORD & AMD-BOM-EWR.

          • Also , BLR can collect feeder traffic from MAA, COK, TRV, (Coimbatore ) . This can surpass the DEL O&D. It is time AI thinks of a 3rd Hub in BLR + make use of Star Alliance codeshares. Perhaps BLR-NRT-SFO(ANA) , BLR-PVG-SFO(United, Air China)

        • Why are you talking about a southern country here? This argument is about a flight from BLR or DEL to SFO, and the advantages or disadvantages of one over the other. Its not about AI’s Australia flights. We all know AI never flies a route to make money, there are a bunch of iodine-deficient fools sitting in the board of their airline and absolutely everything they do is political. We all know that don’t we?

          Bottom line is had it been any other airline who’d have tried this route or do so in the future, they would make it a DEL-SFO itself and not just AI alone, the yields of BLR-SFO are always much much lesser than DEL-SFO (as Yash aptly pointed out). Just having the two big IT centres in BLR and SFO aren’t proof of bigger yields always, especially when all the points I made in the first reply are taken into consideration, especially a much longer range if the flight is from BLR.

          • I agree with you, my point here was, AI instead of flying long range flights to SFO, they could fly to NRT from Indian cities & have a star alliance connection by ANA to SFO/SJC, which would reduce losses for AI.

          • If you look at it that way, there are a million things AI can do to reduce losses. Codeshare with Asiana at ICN or ANA at NRT for U.S. West Coast, and so on.
            Unless an international airline or country deals with the Govt of India in terms of what monetary under the table benefit they can offer, things aren’t meant to happen. That is the reality with Air India.

            There is absolutely no point discussing what is profitable and what isn’t with the airline, because AI is and will always be the Govt’s bitch and public tax will fund that as long as the airline is state owned.

    • Not really Darshan. Delhi contributes a lot of traffic to San Francisco. It is important to take passengers from both cities. My feeling is that AI should consider an extension flight like it does with ORD-DEL-HYD or EWR-BOM-AMD. If not the same aircraft, a narrow body aircraft. Something similar to what the US carriers do.

  10. AI being National Carrier should consider International routes from other Indian cities too which have more Demand and Traffic other than DEL/BOM.For Instance the much hyped BLR-SFO.It would have given them reasonable traffic and who knows profits too on the route along with the Distinction of being the Longest Route in the World.

  11. I believe, as with everything AI, the best would be to wait and watch. When the airline finds most of their SFO flights are going empty, they will be forced to reduce transit times to/from BLR. Slow decision making, like with all Govt depts in India, plagues AI more than a lot of other things. Still in the “hoping that the new CMD will make good decisions happen in AI faster” phase now.
    Being the same 77Ls or 320s for the onward BLR connections is much less of an importance here to that of slim transit times IMHO.

  12. AI will lose money on this route too as with the other non-stop US services.