Georgia officials are already lining up to take Delta Air Lines Inc.’s inaugural flight from Atlanta to Mumbai, India, that is to launch Nov. 1, pending government approval.
Ken Stewart, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Economic Development, declared his intention to be on the flight during the airline’s Aug. 7 press conference announcing the new route.
The Georgia department is planning a business mission to India for November, and Mr. Stewart said the flight will make the state a more attractive business location.
“One of the things that grows jobs is connectivity,” he said. “With a flight like this doing business with India is just as easy from Atlanta as Valdosta or Macon.”
Mr. Stewart noted Georgia's large Indian population and that Kenneth Cutshaw has represented the country as honorary consul for India in Atlanta since 2000.
Bob Cortelyou, Delta’s senior vice president for network planning, said that the flight could have an impact throughout the Southeast, and the Georgia capital’s location provides Indian travelers with connections throughout the U.S. and South America.
“No U.S. gateway matches the geographic reach of Atlanta,” he said.
Delta currently flies to Mumbai from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, but that route is to be discontinued with the opening of the Atlanta flight.
Narsi Narasimhan, president of the Georgia Indo-American Chamber of Commerce, said the flight will make travel more convenient for the approximately 80,000 Indians living in the state.
Currently, travel between Atlanta and India requires changing planes in New York or a European city, adding 4-6 hours of flying and wait time.
Mr. Narasimhan also told GlobalAtlanta that it could play a role in making Georgia a more desirable business and tourist destination.
“Since direct flights are convenient, more travelers from India will choose to visit Atlanta, and more Georgians will choose to visit India. The perceived convenience will also make Atlanta a great choice for locating the U.S. headquarters for Indian companies spreading their wings,” he said.
Bobby Spann, Delta’s director of international development, said the airline’s new B777 plane from Boeing Co. makes the nonstop route possible. Mumbai is the fourth nonstop Asian destination from Atlanta, as Delta opened flights to Seoul, South Korea; Shanghai, China; and Tokyo in the past two years.
The Atlanta to Mumbai flight is to take more than 16 hours in the air, while Mumbai to Atlanta will last nearly 18 hours.
Ben DeCosta, general manager for Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport, said that airport officials regularly visit India to promote air travel between the two regions.
"Earlier in the year, visits were made to a number of passenger and cargo airlines in India. We will continue to build those relationships," through the flight, he said, adding that India's aviation industry is among the fastest-growing in the world.
He also said that demand for air travel between the U.S. and India has grown significantly in the last two years, after governments of the two countries signed an agreement relaxing air service between them.
Steve Smith, vice president of government and community relations for Turner Broadcasting System and president of the Atlanta Convention and Visitors Bureau, echoed the hope that the flight will bring more visitors to the state.
After the announcement, Mr. Narasimhan led Mr. Cortelyou, Mr. Smith and Mr. Stewart in lighting two traditional Indian lamps, symbolizing their hopes for the flight’s bright future.