Air India Will Launch Non-Stop Bangalore Service, United And American Are Punching Air!

Air India announced three-times weekly San Francisco – Bangalore non-stop service starting January 11, 2021. It will be Air India’s longest route, on board a Boeing 777-200LR.

  • American Airlines announced Seattle – Bangalore service as the first U.S. non-stop to the center of India’s high tech industry back in February, supported by its refreshed Alaska Airlines partnership.

  • Then United Airlines in September announced that it, too, would service Bangalore. United’s flight would start first and operate from San Francisco which is the source of the greatest traffic to Bangalore, India.

  • Now Air India, ostensible United Airlines partner through Star Alliance, is front-running them both. United is the stronger carrier in San Francisco, with large corporate deals. It also has the better on board product (not something one usually says about United versus foreign competitors).

Two non-stop San Francisco – Bangalore options will put significant pressure on fares. And since American’s Seattle – Bangalore flight will focus on connecting traffic (Seattle is only the 8th largest U.S. market to Bangalore), low fares out of San Francisco will affect American’s one-stop yields from Seattle as well. (Seattle – Bangalore is 623 miles shorter than the San Francisco flight.)

Unless the government of India suddenly gets serious about Air India having to operate at least at break-even, past claims about having to do so notwithstanding, it’s likely this new entrant will mean cheap main cabin fares and empty coach cabins on new Bangalore flights, while United captures premium cabin tech corridor business in San Francisco. United’s Patrick Quayle, Vice President of International Network and Alliances, is likely punching air, but American Airlines could be the first squeezed out of the market so American’s Chief Revenue Officer Vasu Raja must be doing so as well.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. 16 hours on Air India is just about the worst aviation experience I can imagine short of crashing.

  2. Indians are very proud of their country. They will fly Air India over UA even if the product is worse. Now, I have never flown Air India, nor have I heard anything good or bad about it, but if it is a member of Star Alliance, then it cannot be that bad. Right?

    AA from SEA is an interesting play. Interesting that it is focused on connections when SEA should have a large enough Indian population to support O&D. Maybe it’s because Amazon refuses to pay for Business class travel even on these ass long flights, so that depresses revenue.

  3. Perhaps this is a dumb question, but why would UA be punching air? I get why UA might not care about Y loads on the route, but why is it affirmatively a good thing for them? I assume this isn’t going to be a JV route, right? Happy Thanksgiving!

  4. Here we go..Gary bull shitting again . Airlines have proper plans and strategy when they establish a route . What Gary thinks about it when he is at his kitchen table nobody cares . … waisted my 5 minutes reading Air India story . Let’s see whether its gonna happen or not. Because couple of months ago they didn’t have money to pay for the fuel. AI BLR flights were grounded for couple of days .
    Happy Thanks Giving .

  5. Wasted five minutes reading it and another five complaining about having read it…so, progress?

  6. I have flown SFO-DEL with “protected connection” to BLR (same flight number, change of equip). The advantage of using an older 777-200 LR is that AI uses 9 across seating and 34 inch pitch in Economy, while others will cram you in a 10 across and 30-31 inch pitch. Business class is 2-3-2 with “near flat” seating. If you’re travelling with the masses it’s not a bad way to go. And the food is good too.

  7. Actually AI’s on-board product is not bad:

    (1) Indians would prefer their food options.

    (2) There would be FAs speaking many Indian languages (Indian professionals speak English, but their parents and families may not).

    (3) AI is slow to change, which means that their seats and cabin have not been “upgraded” recently and would be more comfortable, at least in economy.

    (4) Finally, AI will offer better connecting service to those going beyond BLR. This is the sort of thing where US carriers tend to be tone deaf. I remember that American’s nonstop to Delhi used to land at such a time that everyone just missed domestic connections and was forced to go to a hotel for one night.

    So, AI does have a few advantages. However, dealing with AI’s ground staff, or even finding them, in case of irrops will be a miserable experience. Not that AA/UA irrops are fun, but AI is in a different class altogether. Of course, it could be even worse—for example if you were dealing with PIA, the world’s worst airline!

  8. Kingfisher Air’s dream is becoming a reality with Air India, years after IT’s demise.

    The question should be asked if BLR-SFO travel really is as much in demand in 2021 as it would have been in 2019, especially given how IT enabled service companies have been major movers in the “work from home/anywhere” campaign that has led to SanFran apartment rents plummeting. On-site work and related travel is just not what it used to be even at the start of 2020.

    Some informed people are starting to say we may not get back to 2019 travel levels in parts until close to even 2025.

  9. If the Biden camp too sort of strikes with keeping down H-1B visas for the Indian techies in particular, perhaps that would actually stimulate travel demand on the US-BLR flights. Wouldn’t that be ironic.

  10. Isn’t punching the air a celebratory thing? Why would AA/UA celebrate excess capacity and lower yields to BLR?

    Some US corporates don’t allow their employees to fly AI (safety/maintenance concerns), so that traffic might still be safe for the US carriers.

  11. As one American who has been flying Air India since 1974, will take them over any U.S. garbage carrier like United or AA. Reason ? Air India’s flight attendants don’t have “attitude” like those at United or AA or Delta!

  12. Gary – I strongly suspect AA has some type of agreements with Microsoft and Amazon to buy a certain number of seats. I would disagree that the AA Seattle departure is mainly about connecting traffic. There is significant travel between Seattle area tech companies and India to support the flight.

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