Washington Dulles International Airport and Air India celebrated the first-ever nonstop flight connecting the Washington metro area and Delhi, India, on July 7 with delegations from the Embassy of India, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia.
The inaugural events, which included a ceremonial water cannon salute, traditional gate-side Indian prayer ceremony, press conference, ribbon cutting and gala luncheon, commemorate Air India’s new three weekly nonstop, roundtrip flights between Indira Gandhi International Airport and Dulles International Airport.
The new Air India service represents another milestone in the growing relationship between the Washington metro area and India.
“Today, we celebrate an important partnership and welcome Air India’s direct air service to Dulles,” Governor Terry McAuliffe said. “Virginia is committed to expanding and growing our relationships with the international community, especially our friends in India. We look forward to the opportunities this new route will provide for people in Virginia and India alike. This will be an important avenue for business, tourism and educational opportunities between our two great countries.”
Sabre Global Demand Data shows that for the year ending March 2016, the D.C. area welcomed more than 281,000 Indian visitors — making India the fourth largest overseas travel market for the region.
“With international visitation between India and the Washington, D.C., area expected to double by 2025, the Airports Authority’s partnership with Air India, the Commonwealth of Virginia and the District of Columbia is just one way we’re working to enhance the level of service offered at Dulles International,” said Jerome L. Davis, executive vice president and chief revenue officer of the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
Todd Haymore, Secretary of Commerce and Trade, said with the projected growth, the new direct route to Dulles will help boos visitation from India and also introduce Virginia to new Indian businesses, tourists and students.
Flight service between Dulles and Delhi is also estimated to bring in an additional 30,000 leisure and business travelers and $30 million in total economic impact annually to the National Capital Region, according to the Metropolitan Washington Airports Authority.
“Serving 7.5 million international travelers annually with nonstop service to more than 50 international destinations in more than 40 countries, Dulles International Airport is the region’s gateway to the world,” said Margaret McKeough, executive vice president and chief operating officer of the Airports Authority.
McKeough said Air India’s service launch is Dulles’ 33rd capital-to-capital connection.
“The Washington, D.C., metro is Air India’s fifth U.S. destination after New York, Newark, Chicago and San Francisco, and it reinforces our commitment to providing the most convenient service between the United States and India,” said Ashwani Lohani, chairman and managing director of Air India Limited.
As part of an effort to stimulate travel to Virginia through Dulles International Airport, the Commonwealth of Virginia approved an incentive package over a three-year period beginning in fiscal year 2018 to support Air India. In addition, D.C. plans to provide incentive funding this year to support the partnership. Tourism marketing support will be provided by the Virginia Tourism Corporation, Capital Region USA and Destination DC.
“This inaugural launch highlights our work with the international community to drive business and tourism to the D.C. region,” D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser said. “Here in the nation’s capital, we are delighted to invite many more visitors from India to explore the sights and sounds that make Washington, D.C., the greatest city in the world.”