Washington Dulles International Airport and Air India celebrated the first-ever nonstop flight connecting the National Capital Region 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 Washington Dulles International Airport.
The new Air India service represents another milestone in the growing relationship between the National Capital Region and India. “Today, we celebrate an important partnership and welcome Air India’s direct air service to Dulles,” said Governor McAuliffe. “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.”
“This inaugural launch highlights our work with the international community to drive business and tourism to the D.C. region,” said District of Columbia Mayor Muriel Bowser. “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.”
Sabre Global Demand Data shows that for the year ending March 2016, the Washington, 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.
“India currently represents a 6 percent market share of all international travelers to the Commonwealth and is Virginia’s fourth largest market,” said Todd Haymore, Secretary of Commerce and Trade. “With projected growth, this new direct route to Dulles International will not only help to boost visitation from this high growth market, but also introduce the Commonwealth to new Indian audiences, including businesses, tourists and students.”
Flight service between Dulles International 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 Travel Market Insights, visitation from India to D.C. has grown 40 percent since 2013, and 70 percent to the region,” said Elliott Ferguson, president and chief executive officer of Destination DC, the official destination marketing organization for the nation’s capital. “We’re excited about the potential for even more Indian business and leisure travelers to experience Washington D.C.’s dynamic neighborhoods and free attractions as well as the diverse experiences throughout the capital region.”
“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. “Air India’s service launch adds our 33rd capital-to-capital connection—linking the world’s oldest democracy with the world’s largest democracy.”
“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,” commented 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, the District of Columbia 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.