AI to buy more wide-body planes to expand global network
Air India is mulling expanding its Boeing wide-body aircraft feet to implement its plans of adding a host of new destinations in its overseas network in a couple of years. The airline is expected to draw up a firm plan in this regard early next fiscal, highly-placed airline sources said.
As of now, the government-owned carrier has 40 wide-body or twin-aisle planes in its fleet -- 15 Boeing 777s, 21 B-787 (Dreamliners) and jumbo B-747, as against 68 Airbus single- aisle A-320 family aircraft.
“We have not added too many wide-body planes in the fleet in the last couple of years, except the induction of Dreamliners from the 2005 order. We are now considering expanding this fleet as well by adding some long range Boeing aircraft going forward,” the sources said. A final call on the issue, including the choice of aircraft B-777s or Dreamliners -- is expected to be made early next financial year, they said. The new routes that are on India’s radar include Washington DC and Houston among others in the US, Sweden and some destinations across Africa, sources said.
Air India is expected to take deliveries of another nine wide-body planes by March 2018 which include six Dreamliners and three B777-300ERs. At the same time, it will induct another around 30 A-320s, includng A-320 neos, during the same period. “But this will not suffice as we will be adding a number of destinations in the international network and hence require a good number of aircraft to meet the purpose,” they said.
As per estimates of global aircraft makers Boeing and Airbus, Indian airlines together are likely to order 1,740 and 1,600 planes respectively over the next 20 years. Of this, while Airbus forecast India will require 380 wide-body planes, Boeing has pegged the requirement at 280. Boeing’s senior vice president for Asia-Pacific and India sales Dinesh Keskar had during the India Aviation show here last week said that Indian aviation was frequency-driven and there was a market for 250-300 seater aircraft like the Dreamliners and B-777s.
As part of its fleet expansion plan, the national carrier had in 2006 placed orders with Boeing for 68 aircraft -- 27 Dreamliners, 15 B777-300ERs, eight B777-200LRs and 18 B-737- 800s. The airline has so far taken delivery of 21 Dreamliners, 12 777-300ERs and all eight B777-200LRs and 18 B-737-800s.
However, the delivery of three B777-300ERs was postponed in the wake of the downturn in the global aviation sector in 2008 as there was no “cancellation” clause in the original purchase agreement with Boeing Company. But last September, Air India had decided to take the deferred delivery of these three planes, which are now expected to join the fleet between January-March next year.