ONSITE: Air India Announces JFK Service

New York-At a press conference on Tuesday, Air India announced it would compete with such U.S. carriers as American and Continental by introducing daily nonstop service between New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and Mumbai, beginning August 1, with other nonstop U.S. routes to follow. Air India will operate the flight using its latest purchase of several Boeing 777-200LR aircraft. In the past, the airline--which is in the midst of a merger with India Airlines--has come under fire for poor service and punctuality, but V.K. Verma, commercial director of operations for the airline, said he expects that reputation to change with the new fleet. "By getting new aircraft we are correcting the cause that hurt our operations," he told reporters. "We want to occupy the space that Swiss used to occupy years back with discerning travelers." The new planes offer three classes of service: eight first class, 78-inch seats in a 1-2-1 configuration; 35 business class, 76-inch seats in a 2-3-2 configuration; and 198 economy 34-inch "slim seats." American Airlines and Continental Airlines also offer direct New York area-Mumbai service and Air India currently operates New York-Mumbai service with a stopover in London, but Verma said the airline would know in another eight months whether that flight has enough demand to continue. Also in the coming months, Air India plans to launch nonstop service between JFK and Delhi, as well as between San Francisco and Bangalore. "Air India is on the threshold and we're now set to regain the glory we had a few years back," Verma said. Visit [www.airindia.com].