The inaugural Air-India Boeing 747-400 Mumbai-Los Angeles flight, carrying 170 passengers, was on Friday flagged off by Minister of State for Civil Aviation Praful Patel.
"Let the Maharaja rule the skies once again to restore the past glory," Patel said while flagging off the flight. The airline had sunk in the past; now it is time to grow and regain its market share and past pride, he added.
Union Cabinet Minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunsi and actress Mandira Bedi were among the 170 passengers on the inaugural flight to Los Angeles.
There are 380 passengers booked on the return flight to Mumbai from LA. The flight would operate on Friday, Sunday and Wednesday.
A special first day cover was also released on the occasion.
Hollywood to Bollywood was the theme at the Sahar terminal, with look alike of characters Michael Jackson, Elvis Prisley, Charlie Chaplin were there to entertain large number of guests.
Chairman and Managing Director V Thulasidas and his senior management team were present on the occasion at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport.
Meanwhile, the civil aviation ministry said that it will discuss the fleet expansion proposals of Air-India and Indian Airlines with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and other leaders in the United Progressive Alliance.
"We want to go about this expansion process in a transparent manner," Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel told reporters.
"Our main aim will be to strengthen both A-I and IA. During last 10 years, market share of A-I has shrunk because of non-addition of capacity and is currently at around 20 per cent," the minister said.
AI's proposal is for 28 aircraft - 10 A340-300s and 18 737-800s while for IA it was pegged at 43 Airbus aircraft - amounting to more than Rs 20,000 crore (Rs 200 billion).
Patel, referring to the FDI capping of 49 per cent in
aviation sector, "We will continue with our dialogues with the Left parties and unions on this issue, including restructuring and modernisation of Delhi and Mumbai airports."
The aviation policy, which is expected to be ready by the year-end, would define parameters and also lay down guidelines on routes to be flown by private airlines, he said.
Expressing happiness over the introduction of this new flight from Bollywood to Hollywood on the West Coast of the United States, which is a big market, he said: "All this while foreign carriers have been taking our passengers and A-I will be able to have a daily service by March next year."
Patel said: "As against one service to New York few years back, IA now operates to four destinations in the US."