July 2, 2002
0236 IST

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Air-India expands US services to India

Suman Guha Mozumder in New York

As part of its efforts to better services, Air-India on Monday announced a number of proposals, including an expansion of its US services to India, which will be operational from December this year.

K Roy Paul, the international carrier's chairperson who is also secretary, civil aviation, Government of India, announced the proposals during a press conference in New York.

"There is no doubt that the airline has not grown to its full potential in the last four five years due to a variety of reasons, but now that the government has put the decision to sell off Air-India to backburner and to revive the carrier, we must make efforts for its full growth," Paul said.

"Unless we want to improve and are willing to improve, we can never improve," he said.

As part of that goal Air-India is expected to acquire new aircraft and increase the number of flights in long hauls and introduce flights to the Gulf region, London and to the United States.

The carrier's US services to India will be augmented with three flights a week from Newark airport, New Jersey from December three this year.

The flights will arrive in Newark every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday via Paris and depart for New Delhi and Mumbai every Wednesday, Friday and Sunday via Paris.

Paul said passengers bound for Kochi and Chennai will be able to make convenient Air-India-to-Air-India connections at Delhi.

Paul said that while new aircraft acquisition plans are underway and was expected to be finalised by the end of this year, it has already acquired eight A310 aircraft through dry-lease and is finalising lease of two Boeing 747-400s and three more A-310s.

Paul said that as part of its commitment to improve services to passengers, the carrier would launch an orientation programme for its staff.

"We often find complaints about ground services (and) we are going to start a new campaign, including a orientation programme and counselling for the staff so that passengers do not feel neglected," Paul said.

The airline also took a major stride in e-marketing by providing ticket purchasing facility in the US through its website.

"We will provide attractive fares to passengers buying tickets through the web," Paul said.

He also indicated that in-flight facilities are also going to be improved. Paul also discounted misgivings that some of Air-India's aircraft are old and therefore poses a safety risk.

"There are no safety issues involved here. In fact, the safety is related much more to maintenance than the age of an aircraft," Paul said, adding, that the airline, however, does not intend to keep the old aircraft. "We are in the process of phasing them out," he said.

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