Saturday, March 11, 2017

Air India to lease six Boeing wide-body aircraft

Air India will lease six additional wide-body aircraft—either Boeing 777-300ERs or 787-9s—as its international expansion plan continues.

Air India CCO and board member Pankaj Srivastava told ATW in an exclusive interview that the carrier is in the midst of an evaluation process. “When we get the report, we will come up with a request for proposal [RFP] very soon.” He added, “The 787-9 could come sometime toward the end of 2018 or middle of 2019, and we may operate it to the US west coast.”

The Star Alliance member operates a fleet of 118 aircraft, including 23 Boeing 787-8s, three 777-200LRs and 12 777-300ERs.

“We have four more 787-8s on order. Three additional 777-300ERs will join the fleet in early 2018,” Srivastava said.

The Indian flag carrier’s newest long-haul route is Delhi-Madrid Barajas.

“In May, we will launch Delhi-Tel Aviv flights. July will see the launch of nonstop service from Delhi to Washington Dulles with either the Boeing 777-200LR or 777-300ER,” he said.

Srivastava said the carrier generates 40% of revenue on domestic routes and 60% on international routes.

On the narrow-body side, Air India has 29 aircraft scheduled for delivery. “Fourteen [Airbus] A320s will replace our oldest A320s, which will be phased out by April 2018,” he said.

Srivastava said Air India’s first A320neo—powered by CFM LEAP-1A engines—has already begun scheduled services.

He added that the next two or three years will be “very crucial years” for Air India. “We need to sustain our operations, we need to generate revenue to take care of the additional leases,” he said. Also, the airline must grow, “otherwise we are finished. And we need to grow quite rapidly, especially in the Indian domestic market. So far our growth is international,” Srivastava said.

For the first time in nearly a decade, Air India reported an operating profit of 10.5 billion rupees ($155 million) in the July-to-September fiscal quarter, aided by lower fuel costs and a jump in passenger figures.

“The biggest challenge for our industry will be fuel prices,” he said. “If fuel remains under $60 per barrel, then there is a possibility of long-term sustainability. But if oil prices go higher, then many airlines will face problems,” Srivastava said.

(Kurt Hofmann - ATWOnline News)

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