NEW DELHI: National carrier Air India is mulling to launch direct flight services from here to San Francisco and Toronto this winters following removal of restrictions on the domestic carriers to expand their operations in the US after safety upgrade by the FAA.
The state-run airline also plans to re-configure its Boeing 777-200 LR planes to cater to these proposed services, airline sources told PTI.
At present, Air India operates flights to New York and Chicago.
"We are planning to introduce direct flights services to San Francisco and Toronto from the Winter schedule this year. A firm plan, however, is still being worked out," they said.
The airline proposed to fly three weekly flights each to San Francisco and Toronto from New Delhi with a B777-200 LR aircraft, which is likely to be reconfigured for more seating capacity, they said.
Air India had earlier also planned to operate its services to the US West Coast city, which has the second largest population of Indians in America and which remains connected by any direct or one stop-service by the Indian Airlines. However, the plan failed to take off for one reason or the other.
Air India also used to operate a non-stop flight to Toronto from the national capital, which it suspended in 2012 after incurring huge losses on the route.
Air Canada, which had also pulled out its services from India on the same grounds in 2007, has already announced the resumption of direct air connectivity between the two countries from November this year.
"The present 235-seater B777-200LRs are in three class configuration-first, business and economy class. However, there is a proposal to reconfigure these planes in two cabin class and do away with the first class and also reduce some seats from the business class," the sources said.
This would scale up the seating capacity of these planes to 310 seats, they said, adding, "Air India is likely to incur USD 7.5 million as cost of reconfiguration."
The airline had acquired these eight B777s as a part of its 67 aircraft order from Boeing in 2006. The airline sold off five of these planes to Etihad Airways while keeping rest three in the fleet.
After induction of these planes, Air India got them reconfigured to 235-seaters against the industry practice of 290-300 seats.
The idea behind this configuration was to operate them on ultra long-haul routes like Chicago, New York, Toronto etc, on premium fares.
The plan, however, did not work, forcing Air India to sell out the planes to the Gulf carrier.