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Maharaja makes historic touchdown in Shanghai
Anil K Joseph in Shanghai | December 11, 2003 18:29 IST
Last Updated: December 11, 2003 19:36 IST
Air-India's first-ever commercial flight to China arrived in Shanghai on Thursday, opening a new chapter in India-China bilateral ties and paving way for enhanced people-to-people contacts.
A packed Airbus 310 aircraft -- flight number AI348 -- touched down at the spanking Pudong International Airport in Shanghai at 1815 hours IST, creating aviation history for India's international flag carrier.
"It is a historic occasion for India-China relations as well as for Air-India which is flying to China for the first time in history," V J Casshyap, regional director of Air-India for Far East, Southeast Asia and Australia, said.
"Shanghai is our 45th destination and we are extremely happy about severing the new market," Casshyap said.
He said that Air-India has brought China and India closer than ever before with the commencement of the twice-weekly flight from Shanghai to India and the five weekly flights from Hong Kong to India.
Air-India, well-known by its mascot, Maharaja, ensured that the first inbound and outbound passengers flying on the flight got a royal welcome by positioning a 'real' maharaja to greet on their arrival and departure.
Air-India will be flying to Shanghai on a twice-weekly basis on Thursdays and Sundays on the Mumbai-Delhi-Bangkok-Shanghai sector.
The flight duration from Mumbai to Shanghai, including the two stopovers in Delhi and Bangkok is about 11 hours and 30 minutes.
The introductory fares for the flight are Rs 18,000 for economy class, and Rs 27,000 for executive class.
The fares will soon be raised to about Rs 36,000 for economy and Rs 52,000 for executive class.
Air-India is likely to fly daily to China by the end of 2004.
While the first flight was near-full, Casshyap said Air-India was confident of wooing Chinese as well as other expatriate travellers to Bangkok, Thailand as well as to India on this very busy route.
"We are confident that the routing we have done for the flights to Shanghai is an attractive one for the discerning public, who would like to take advantage of convenient flights," he said.
While Shanghai is China's largest city and commercial capital, Mumbai is India's financial hub.
Casshyap was also confident that the introduction of the flight from Mumbai to Shanghai would go a long way to address the long-pending demand from the business communities of the two fastest-growing economies.