In April, the U.S. and Indian governments officially dismantled 50-year-old laws limiting competition. By summer, Continental Airlines and American had announced non-stop service. Continental inaugurated its Newark, N.J.-Delhi service on Nov.1, marking the first time a non-stop was flown between the two countries.
Until now, Asian and European carriers have dominated the U.S.- Indian air market -- about 2 million passengers a year. Last year, for instance, Delta and Northwest flew just 14% of U.S.-India passengers, according to an analysis by Sabre Airline Solutions. Air India and Lufthansa, meanwhile, flew 36%.
Sabre Airline Solutions analyst Vijay Bathija expects that U.S. carriers will increase their share of the market as they launch non-stop services to India.
Non-stop service means passengers such as Bob Boehnlein of Indianapolis can bypass three- to four-hour layovers often "at some awful time of day."
"The convenience for a non-stop to India is a huge benefit," says Boehnlein, a technology executive.
But Satadru Sen, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis who returns often to his native India, says success of non-stop flights such as American's is not assured.
Leisure travelers may not want to sit in economy for up to 16 hours and may seek flights with stopovers, he says.
He also says that American's international service usually doesn't measure up with that of the European and Asian airlines.
"Flying with AA is now not very different from flying with Southwest, and nobody in their right mind would want to fly Southwest all the way to India," Sen says.
A frequent flier with American, Sen says he booked his flight this winter with Singapore Airlines even though he'll pay more money.---Contributing: Barbara Hansen
More flight choices between USA and IndiaTravelers flying between the USA and India are finding a broadening array of choices.CarrierFlights(1)ViaU.S. citiesIndia citesAir India28Frankfurt, London, ParisNew York, Chicago, Los AngelesMumbai, Delhi, AhmedabadLufthansa25 Frankfurt 15 cities Bangalore, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Chennai, DelhiNorthwest7AmsterdamMinneapolisMumbaiDelta14ParisNew YorkMumbai, ChennaiContinental7Non-stopNewark, N.J.DelhiAmerican7Non-stopChicagoDelhi1 -- Weekly flights, each waySources: Sabre Airline Solutions, USA TODAY research
Jet Airways' 'bold' growth plans target North America
As more Americans travel frequently to destinations such as India, China and Japan, more airlines are beginning to offer non-stop flights.
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The route is nearly 7,500 miles. American plans to use 236-seat Boeing 777 aircraft for the trip.