London: Birmingham airport welcomed Air India’s first Dreamliner flight connecting Birmingham with Amritsar and Delhi, fulfilling a long cherished dream of the people of Punjab.

The Air India’s Dreamliner AI 461, with nearly 220 passengers on board, was warmly welcomed at the airport Thursday night.

The new service now operates four times weekly each Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. The 256 seat B787-8 series aircraft has a split cabin, consisting of 18 business class and 238 economy seats. Birmingham is only the second UK airport to operate dedicated Boeing 787 scheduled services.

Welcoming the inaugural flight, the airport’s CEO, Paul Kehoe, said, “We are delighted to welcome this new service into Birmingham and to now offer regular scheduled services to Delhi and Amritsar on the fantastic Dreamliner aircraft. Air India has responded to the enormous demand that lies in our catchment and we thank all the support received from the city, and indeed the region, to secure these direct flights."

According to FDI Markets, the West Midlands receives more foreign direct investment from India than any other region outside London. Globally, the UK is the third largest recipient of Indian investment, behind only the UAE and the US.

The chairman of Air India, Rohit Nandan, flew in on the inaugural service and was welcomed by a delegation of Midlands’ VIPs, including Sir Albert Bore, the leader of Birmingham city council and V.S. Ramalingam, the consul general for India in Birmingham.

Commenting on the special occasion, Sir Albert Bore, leader of Birmingham city council, said: “Birmingham has a proud reputation as a diverse city, with residents from the wider Indian subcontinent the fastest growing group, according to the 2011 census. It makes a great deal of sense for there to be a direct flight between Delhi and Birmingham, rather than just London, and so I am delighted to welcome the commencement of the new service."

The Boeing 787 Dreamliner is a long-range, mid-size wide-body, twin-engine jet airliner which entered into commercial service in October last year. The officials said the direct flight to Birmingham will not only fulfil the travel needs of the ethnic community but also help to develop better tourism and trade relations between India and the UK. PTI