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Sanjay Sharma takes a trip down memory lane, handling PR for the first Air India Non-Stop Delhi – New York Flight

The Government of India (GOI) decided to merge Indian Airlines (IA) and Air India (AI) in August 2007. At that time, IA predominantly was operating on the domestic network while Air India used to fly the international routes. The merged behemoth decided to launch its first non-stop flight from Delhi to New York and back, in February 2008.

The corporate communications department of the erstwhile IA was entrusted with the media duties to showcase the capability of the new generation 'Boeing 777-200 Longer Range Aircraft's' performance to the domestic and international media. It was nearly a 15-hour direct flight, over North Pole. 

We at the corporate communications department of Indian Airlines took up the challenge to handle this major and prestigious launch. Inaugural advertisements were positioned in Indian and American newspapers along with support of hoardings at prominent locations in India and abroad.

Small groups of aviation journalists and the phot journalists from the print and electronic medium were given a guided tour of the newly acquired state of the art Boeing 777 Aircraft at the IGI Airport.

Another major USP of this flight besides being non-stop were its convenient timings. The flight used to take off from Delhi around midnight and land in New York in the wee hours, giving one enough time to schedule early morning meetings there. While on the return leg from New York, it used to leave the J F Kennedy International Airport in early evening hours and land in Delhi in the evening, giving you time to connect for other major metros.

We had to illustrate this advantage of convenient time to national and international media, for them to disseminate the same to the traveling public at large. We organized an interaction with our media friends, sharp at 10 AM (NYT) for demonstrating this major feature of our maiden flight. The core team of AI Officials, who arrived on the inaugural flight (that landed the same morning), were present to welcome the media and travel trade for the introduction and interaction session. 

This wholesome and enriching experience was one of the major learnings in my corporate communications career and gave me my maiden international exposure. Also, this was purely an engagement undertaken by the home grown corporate communications department of a PSU with no external help from any outside agency.

AI's direct flight became the talk of the town and was very well received by the public. Industry captains namely Anand Mahindra, Anil Ambani and several others who became the active proponents of the flight as they started using its services regularly.

Authored by Sanjay Sharma, senior communications consultant

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