Gangadhar Sharma, 96, and his wife Saroj Sharma, 90, who founded the Hindu Society of North Carolina in Morrisville about 50 years ago, have seen the growth of Indian culture and traditions over the growing number of ‘Indians as the largest Asian ethnic group in the Northeastern United States. North Carolina’s Indian population of more than 120,000 has grown by more than 50% over the past decade. Charlotte, Raleigh, Durham, Chapel Hill, Cary, and Morrisville are home to North Carolina’s growing South Asian population.
Obviously, every bit of India is available in North Carolina these days, from Indian temples to restaurants, except for flights from India to Charlotte or RDU airport. Recently, Indian-born leaders from the Research Triangle in North Carolina expressed their demand for direct flights to India from Raleigh-Durham International Airport. On September 22, American Indian Steve Rao, Morrisville Town council member, called a town hall meeting at the Hindu Society of North Carolina where RDU Airport CEO Michael Landguth addressed the community Indian Triangle in response to their request for non-stop flights to India. .
Jay Chaudhuri, the first Native American lawmaker in the North Carolina Senate representing Raleigh, also attended the meeting. He spoke about the importance of having direct air connectivity to India for the growing Indian community in the Triangle from an economic perspective.. The explosive growth of the Indian community resulting in the availability of talent in the RTP area is the reason why Infosys has set up a technology and innovation center in Raleigh. The same was considered by Bharat Forge, an Indian conglomerate, for its opening of a manufacturing plant in the Triangle, North Carolina. In view of this, Senator Jay Chaudhuri posed a question at the meeting: “Can we rally our companies to secure a non-stop route from India to North Carolina so that our economic relationship with India grows at the top level?
The frequency of business class travel in india by high-level employees of IBM, Google, Lenovo, Cisco Systems, NetApp and others in the expanding Research Triangle technology corridor is also fueling demand for direct air service from Charlotte or RDU airport. Many of them are looking forward to having nonstop flights between North Carolina and India, as they put a strain on the travel time that connecting one- or two-stop routes take.
Apart from the economic development that direct air connectivity to India is expected to spur in RTP, some 200 members of the Indian community present at the meeting with RDU’s airport CEO spoke about the hassles of traveling between the Triangle and India. India via Atlanta, New York. , Philadelphia, Washington Dulles, Boston and Miami/Tampa. Long layovers, missed connections, and lost luggage are some of the downsides of two-stop trips. flights to india from usa via Europe or the Middle East, according to them. Indians in and around the Triangle, North Carolina mostly get two-stop routes from Charlotte to India via a major US airport and a third country.
A long-haul aircraft deployed for non-stop service to India, regardless of the airline, can accommodate 240 to 275 passengers. It’s a challenge to fill over 200 seats on an ultra-long-haul flight from RDU airport every day, according to Michael Landguth, CEO of RDU Airport. In 2019, around 75 passengers traveled to India from the Triangle per day; but the “number has fallen to about 50 a day” in the post-pandemic period, according to Campbell-Hill Aviation Group, a consulting group. Given the insufficient number of passengers to fill a plane for a long-haul destination, non-stop service to India from RDU airport can only be expected in the distant future, Michael Landguth said.
Any airline that the Indian community in the Triangle wants to fly to and from India non-stop needs community marketing support and financial incentives, RDU Airport CEO said. “A combination of the two helped the Triangle secure non-stop flights to London and Paris earlier this year,” he added. RDU Airport waived $1.2 million in fees for Delta Airlines nonstop service between RTP and Paris. A number of private groups, including multinationals from the Triangle, funded the service with an additional $1 million.
RDU Airport CEO and Indian community leaders concluded that getting better one-stop connections between the Triangle and India rather than two-stop connections should be the first intermediate step.. Data processed by the Campbell-Hill Aviation Group reveals that only one-third of travelers to India from the Triangle are able to get on one-stop connecting flights, while two-thirds of they travel on routes with two-stop connections. . Given that the primary objective is to shorten one-stop routes by two stops, Emirates Airlines or Qatar Airways seem the most feasible option to connect RDU and India with one-stop flights via Dubai or Doha, according to most people present at the meeting. .
“Indians in Atlanta, Houston, Dallas, Miami and Detroit lobbied Indian diplomats, Indian consuls general and major airlines including Air India for non-stop connectivity to India, but their efforts are yet to bear fruit. Since Atlanta, Houston, Dallas and Charlotte airports are far ahead of RDU airport in the race for non-stop flights to India in terms of infrastructure and funding, they have a better chance than RDU. As hope continues to shine but never dies, Morrisville Town council member Steve Rao said he will try to build a lobby of community and business leaders so that greater push can be produced to get the ball rolling. said Sourav Agarwal, editor of Travel Beats, a leading community portal for American Indians.