Historic All-Woman Flight to The North Pole

Air India's direct flight from San Francisco, flown by an all-women pilot team, landed in Bengaluru. The historic flight covered a distance of 16.000km, flying over the North Pole.

The Woman Post | Carolina Rodríguez Monclou

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Four women pilots operated Air India's inaugural flight from San Francisco to Bengaluru.

Captain Zoya Aggarwal told CRUX, "we were the first set of people, an all-women pilots team, India's daughters, to fly across the North Pole for Air India. This was one of the world's longest flights. It was a matter of great responsibility, pride, and excitement."

Flight AL176 departed from San Francisco US at 8:30 pm on January 9 of 2021, and landed in Bengaluru at 3:45 am on January 11. Civil Aviation Minister of India, Hardeep Singh Puri, congratulated the pilots on their historic feat.

This was the first time that women pilots flew a commercial aircraft over the North Pole. Regarding this topic, Captain Aggarwal said, "over a half a decade back, major carriers would not even accept women as their pilots because there is a lot of financial costs associated, which is understandable from their perspective. However, it does look like a discriminatory act."

Then she added, "Air India has been extremely accommodating, and we have been given equal opportunity. They have given women a chance to break the glass ceiling."

Air India will operate flights using state-of-the-art Boeing 777-200LR long-range aircraft, capable of connecting any two points on the globe, the pilot assured.

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The airline will be using this plane to operate two non-stop flights between San Francisco and Bengaluru per week.

Besides Captain Zoya Aggarwal, other team members that scripted history were Captains Thanmai Papagari, Akanksha Sonawane, and Shivani Manhas. The crew received a grand welcome at Bengaluru airport. The total flight on the route was around 17 hours, which has saved up to 10 tons of fuel.

It is not the first time this has happened. The world has already witnessed the flight tribute to the working woman for 8-M that Iberia carried out with an exclusively female crew, from the pilot to the ground staff at Barajas Airport.

With the latest feat, Captain Zoya has become the first woman commander of Air India. Before Zoya did this, she held the distinction of being the youngest woman pilot to fly a Boeing 777 in 2013.

The flight with an all-female crew comes after Air India decided in January of 2017 to establish that all its routes have seats reserved for women traveling unaccompanied. Air India adopted this policy after a passenger reported being harassed precisely during a flight to the United States. Affirmative action policies are common in India, where nearly all public trains, subways, and buses offer women-only seats, wagons, or entire areas.

According to a study by the International Society of Women Airline Pilots, almost 13% of India's airplane pilots are women. This reality contrasts with that of the rest of the world, where the average is around 5%, doubling the largest countries, including the United States and the United Kingdom. India’s airline work environment becomes an example of equality, and women empowerment.