"We will complete the viability study in next few months and once it's completed we will move on next step. If everything goes fine, we may start a direct flight to Washington by the end of 2016," a top Air India official said.

The national carrier now operates non-stop flights to four US cities - Chicago, New York and San Fransisco (From New Delhi) and Newark (from Mumbai). Air India earlier used to fly to Washington via New York, but the service was discontinued a few years ago.

The official said the airline is encouraged by the response to its newly launched direct flight to San Francisco in California. The tickets for next two months have already been sold out and the demand was "huge", he added.

The San Francisco flight was airline's first non-stop service connecting America's West Coast with India and making the Silicon Valley its fourth destination in the US. A large number of Indian IT professionals and students live in the region and a direct flight in the West Coast is a boon for them, making travel easy and convenient.

"A large number of passengers are older people who visit their children to spend some time with them," another official said, adding that around 70 wheelchair-bound passengers were in the first flight to San Fransisco on December 2 which was booked to its full capacity.

Kandace Bender, Deputy Airport Director, Marketing and Communications, San Francisco International Airport, said that Indians are one of the fastest growing communities in San Francisco after Chinese. "We have more than 700 passengers to and from India daily and the numbers are increasing," she said, adding that the travellers include businessmen, tourists, professionals, students and elderly people.

She said that Delhi and Bengaluru are among destinations in India. Hyderabad and Chennai are among other destinations. Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to the Silicon Valley in September had announced to connect the city with India through a direct flight.

The return flight from San Francisco provides onward connections to cities like Bengaluru, Mumbai, Chennai, Kochi, Kolkata, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Pune and Bhubaneswar.

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