By Will Lee
Air India Leases Six Boeing 777s To Bolster Fleet for Potential Expansion
Air India plans to bolster its fleet by leasing six Boeing 777 aircraft in the coming months, with the aircraft expected to be delivered by October and held by the airline for a period of two years.
According to local media, Air India needs the new aircraft to improve its service. In July, one of the airline’s flights between Delhi and Vancouver was delayed by 11 hours due to the “faulty seats,” a potentially recurring problem the airline is reportedly trying to get ahead of in the coming months.
“Taking into account the impact on the airline operations, it has been decided that the airline will lease six [777s] to operate its ultra-long-haul flights (lasting over 16 hours),” the airline said in a prepared statement.
The flag carrier insisted that the aircraft involved in the Vancouver flight debacles have no other issues, and the new aircraft will add to its fleet and not replace any current aircraft. The new aircraft could be paving the way for the airline to expand its route map after the pandemic.
In response to the popular demand, Air India will increase frequencies between Delhi and Vancouver from three flights per week to a daily service starting from Aug. 31. The route will be operated by Boeing 777 in a three-class configuration.
“We are pleased to mark this significant milestone, and the team at Air India is hard at work to enable more expansion in the near future,” said Campbell Wilson, the airline’s managing director and chief executive officer. Tata Group, the new parent company of Air India, announced Wilson’s appointment in May.
Earlier, Air India has tapped the Airbus A350-900 XWB as another fleet addition in the months ahead. It is expected that the new aircraft could be delivered by next year and used to expand the carrier’s North American route network. The carrier has requested its pilots begin preparing for training on A350-900.
Meanwhile, the airline is planning to sell its Boeing 777-200LRs, which were manufactured in 2009, to make way for the newer aircraft to enter the fleet. Air India owns three the type and currently owns a fleet of 128 aircraft, according to its website.
New Operational Targets
In the wake of the expansion in the near future, the airline has decided to extend its retirement age for pilots from 58 to 65. India’s Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) allows pilots to operate aircraft until the age of 65, so this move will bring the airline in line with the country’s maximum.
“Allowing pilots to fly till the age of 65 is a practice followed by most airlines in the industry. The contract would be issued for a period of five years extendable up to 65 years [of age],” the airline said in a statement.
In the meantime, Wilson is determined to improve the airline’s on-time performance. Air India recorded 75-80% total on-time performance in the most recent quarter, a figure that lagged behind that of other Indian airlines during the same period. Outside the country but in the surrounding region, AirAsia has ranked first in the performance for the last three months.