By Surekha vijh
WASHINGTON: On a big great demand from the Indian diaspora and the American business community, Air India started a direct flight between Washington DC to New Delhi.
The first flight which came from New Delhi, carrying Indian Ambassador Navtej Sarna and other dignitaries, was felicitated by the Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, DC Mayor Muriel Bowser, chairman and managing director of Air India, Ashwini LohanI, Air India crew with flight Captain Pias and other senior Indian officials along with 238 passengers at the Dulles Airport on July 7.
At a special luncheon meeting to celebrate the first maiden direct flight between Delhi and DC, Virginia Governor McAuliffe cheered the attendees who gathered here calling it “a new leaf”.
“It opens great business opportunities for both the nations,” McAuliffe said. “It is great that the capitals of the two largest democracies are today connected also by a direct flight.”
The governor, who has been a great force behind the launch of the direct flight along with Air India, congratulated the Indian and American teams who made it possible. He hoped that soon there will be daily direct flight to India from Washington DC and vice versa.
Air India will fly three times a week on Sundays, Wednesdays and Fridays from Washington at 11am, using Boeing 777 aircraft.
Governor McAuliffe said he was delighted to see that the Air India direct flights are already sold out for the next many month, “bridging a distance of 7,458 miles in 13 to 14 hours.”
The governor said Virginia was the greenest state in the whole United States. “We have nine miles long beach , our water is better than any other beaches, besides, we don’t have sharks,” he said, prompting a big laughter from the attendees.
“In Florida one can get skin cancer and other beaches have sharks, so Virginia beaches are the best deal,” he said, inviting people from India and rest of the world to come and see Virginia. He asked the enthusiastic crowd to avail this opportunity of direct Air India flight for better business and tourism opportunities.
Deputy Mayor of DC said DC and Delhi were two natural business partners. It makes an easier choice to have direct flight between the two capital cities. “We both look forward to better business opportunities.”
Air india chairman Ashwani Lohani said they had been working for a long time to make this happen. Thanking the Virginia governor for facilitating the process, Lohani said Washington was the Indian carrier’s fifth US destination after New York, Newark, Chicago and San Francisco. “We are committed to providing the most convenient service between the United States and India”.
He said it was heartening to see that there was an increased number of American tourists to India and they were planning to add more cities, including: Los Angeles and Houston and Dallas.
Rohit Vyas , anchor and news reader from TV Asia, was the master of ceremony. TV Asia chairman Bharat Shah, who was recently awarded the Padam Shri, was also present at the luncheon meeting.
The meeting ended with a colorful dance recitals, including fusion of Indian classical dances and modern belle dances.
The luncheon was held on the 24 floor of Arlington office building at the CEB Waterview Conference Center, overlooking the Potomac river. The beautiful sky with scattered clouds gave a wonderful feeling being in the air, overlooking both Virginia and DC. While the Air India mascot Maharaja walked around and greeted people.