I wrote previously about my preference for business class when travelling outside India. “For me, business class is not about the food, drinks or networking. It is about sleep and comfort for my body and mind. For any travel longer than 4-5 hours, business class is a good investment. It provides excellent RoI (return on investment) in terms of thinking time and idea flow.” I also mentioned my liking for the non-stop flights, even though they are likely to cost more. I realised that I should have explained this better.
There are three benefits of non-stop flights. First is the obvious saving of time. Any connection means a minimum of two hours and probably longer. The second benefit is the lower risk of delays because of the possibility of missing connecting flights; there is also the problem of baggage getting misplaced during the transfer. Running from one gate to another gate at crowded airports is not very exciting! The third benefit is the elimination of the interruption in one’s flow (or sleep). It is much easier to plan out for a 16-hour flight than two 8-hour flights with a break; the latter leads to dead and unproductive time especially when one is tired and sleepy.
With Air India starting a non-stop to San Francisco from Mumbai, both the US coasts are covered. The time taken to get to New York or San Francisco is now the same – about 16 hours. The added advantage is that in the case of getting to another destination in the US, the time can be shortened. My hope is that as Air India buys more aircraft, it will cover more US destinations with their non-stop flights in the years to come.
There are a few disadvantages of non-stop flights, as Directnonstop explains: “There are often not too many nonstop flights between two cities, unless those two cities / airports are particularly busy. Thus making the nonstop flight harder to find than a connecting flight. Also, with fewer flights, that often means less flight time choice. [Also], while many airlines maintain extensive networks of airports they serve, most do not have nonstop flights between every pair of airports. Instead, they might rely on hub airports, or other connecting intermediate airports to get travelers from their starting airport to their destination airport. So, if going for a nonstop flight ticket, one has to sometimes put aside airline / frequent flyer miles preferences and go with whatever airline offers nonstops.”
Many friends I know prefer to avoid Air India for US travel because of some bad experience in the past. I think that’s a mistake – I have had my share of flight delays and unpleasant journeys on other airlines also. I just think the convenience of the non-stop makes Air India the preferred option from India – especially when going to the US. From Mumbai, it is the only option.
So, the next time you are travelling, consider the non-stop flight. It will be a better experience. The 16-odd hours on a US flight to either of the coasts can actually be made more productive with some planning. Going forward, I expect more direct connections between international cities from India – which is good. I still remember my early US trips with the connections either through Europe, South-East Asia, or the Middle East, and flight times exceeding 20 hours. Hopefully, they will stay memories of a world gone by!