India’s national carrier Air India will launch Delhi-Toronto direct flight on the occasion of the World Tourism Day on 27 September despite facing privatisation threat due to mounting debts, AI chairman and managing director (CMD) Ashwini Lohani said onboard the Indore-Dubai maiden flight.

The airline is also planning to launch a direct flight to Nairobi, Kenya, sometime in October due to the immense tourism potential in the sector.

AI 903 is the first international flight from Madhya Pradesh providing the much-needed connectivity to the Gulf and beyond to the people of the central Indian state.

Though the AI is facing a debt of nearly Rs 60,000 crore, it is taking all possible steps, including reducing the operational costs to keep the national carrier afloat. Air India also plans to introduce a flight from Bhopal to Bangalore in October to fulfil the major demand of the people.

Lohani further said after the Dubai flight, AI will start its services for Bangkok from Indore to meet the popular demand of the people of the city (Indore).

From Indore, Air India is operating a 162-seater A320 neo aircraft, which will fly three times a week directly to Dubai on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday while from Dubai it will fly on Tuesday, Friday and Sunday, he said.

“At present, AI has a capacity of 4,500 seats for Dubai and it plans to enhance it to 5,800 seats by winter by starting four more flights for the Gulf nation,” an AI official said.

The new flights will commence shortly from Kolkata, Hyderabad, Kunnoor and Kochi during winter season which starts from 10 October.

Indore-born Sunish Kumar Bhargava was the commander of the maiden international flight from his home city, the official said. “The flight will take a route via Kutch (Gujarat) to fly over the Arabian Sea to reach Muscat, Oman to enter Dubai due to closure of the air space over Pakistan,” Bhargava said.

However, he clarified that it will not enhance the flying time. From Dubai, people of Madhya Pradesh will be able to visit major tourist destinations in the world and the biggest city of the UAE with well-known cities like Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Ajman and Al Ain all nearby.

Newly-elected Indore MP, Shankar Lalwani in the presence of the CMD, Indore Mayor Malini Gaud and former Lok Sabha Speaker Sumitra Mahajan flagged-off the maiden international flight to Dubai from Indore.