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A new year is upon us, and, assuming you’re reading this onboard an American Airlines or American Eagle flight, I congratulate you on getting 2006 off to a flying start. For lots of people, the start of the year brings resolutions to stretch, grow, and explore the world like never before. At American, we got an early jump on that resolution in November by launching our first-ever service to India.

We are proud to offer the only nonstop service between Chicago O’Hare International Airport and Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, India. At nearly 7,500 miles, this is the longest nonstop route in our global network. We are flying it with a Boeing 777 aircraft, which, in addition to our main-cabin seating, features 16 lie-flat First Class seats and 35 Business Class seats offering a spacious 60-inch pitch.

New markets always bring new challenges.­ In this case, seasonal winds, along with our desire to conserve fuel, mean we will fly over the North Pole during certain parts of the year, and over Russia and Northern Europe at other times. Of course, serving a new market well requires more than a plan to get there and back. Fortunately, we have a group of experts at American who have helped us tailor our product offering to the Indian market. Our Indian Employee Resource Group played a critical role in planning several aspects of our Delhi service. The group helped us develop a special menu that features Indian, Indian-inspired vegetarian, and Western meal selections. Also, in addition to our more traditional entertainment programming, travelers will be able to enjoy films from Bollywood — the Indian film industry — in Hindi with English subtitles.

Our Delhi service is complemented by our new reciprocal frequent-flier agreement with Air Sahara, one of the fastest-growing private-sector airlines in India. Members of American’s AAdvantage program can earn and redeem miles when traveling on flights operated by Air Sahara. Likewise, members of the Air Sahara Cosmos program may earn and redeem miles when traveling on flights operated by American.

What’s more, we plan to seek governmental authorization to put our AA code on Air Sahara flights to 26 destinations, including Delhi. That means that once you reach Delhi, you can use Air Sahara to fly to nearly two dozen destinations within India — including Mumbai, Bangalore, and Chennai — as well as to three other South Asian destinations. Our arrangement with Air Sahara will enable you to maximize your miles while you enjoy a seamless travel experience.

Launching our Delhi service was a big and complex undertaking, and I want to congratulate and thank all the members of our team who worked quickly and creatively­ to make it happen. Delhi is a wonderful addition to the roster of global markets we serve from our Gateway to the World hub at Chicago O’Hare. And in three short months, we will add to that roster by inaugurating nonstop service to Shanghai, China, making that city the 23rd international destination served by American or American Eagle from O’Hare.

I’ll have more to say about Shanghai in a future column, but for now, I want to thank you, as always, for flying with us, and for letting us help you explore the world in 2006. Happy travels, and Happy New Year!

Picture of Gerard Arpey

Chairman & CEO
American Airlines