“We will be launching the Ahmedabad-London-Newark flight from August 15 and Delhi-Madrid from December as part of our growth plan,” Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwini Lohani told reporters here.
Lohani arrived here for taking part in a programme on the occasion of opening of AI area manager’s office, which was inaugurated by Madhya Pradesh Chief Secretary Antony DeSa.
“We have launched a number of new flights. We have already launched flights from Delhi for San Francisco and Vienna. Next year we are planning to launch five-six more flights, including Washington, Scandinavian countries and Africa. We are heading towards growth,” Lohani said, replying to a question on the issue of profitability.
To a query on the current fleet size, he said at present there were 133 aircraft in the AirIndia group. “In next four years we will have 232 planes,” he said.
On relaxation in 5/20 rule (five years operation in domestic sector and 20 aircraft) for launching international operations, the CMD, while welcoming it, said ultimately it will benefit the passengers as competition will increase.
“It is a good decision as it will enhance competition and will ultimately benefit air passengers. Now any airline having 20 aircraft can launch international operations straightaway,” he said. Referring to the issues related to Dreamliner planes, he said there were some problems in its design since the beginning but it was sorted out.
Air India has ordered for 27 Dreamliners and has so far received 21 planes and six more are in the pipeline. On the issue of connectivity with Bhopal, Lohani said AI would make its hub in the state so that more flights will originate from here.
When asked if it will be in Bhopal or Indore, he said at present Air India had more contact with the state capital. On the issue of launching international flights from Bhopal or Indore, he said it will not be available for Bhopal, but it may start for Dubai from Indore in near future.
Lohani said the carrier was enhancing the number of planes in its subsidiary, Alliance Air, by inducting ATR planes. He said that it will help in enhancing connectivity from Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities and also boost tourism in the state.
On the issue of stopping Pune flight, he said since the airport in that city was with the Air Force, the latter had denied permission for it and therefore it was stopped. Efforts are on to get nod for Pune operations, he said.
The CMD also stated that the carrier was mulling to connect Bhopal with Kolkata, Raipur, Indore, Jaipur and Delhi and also Bhopal with Indore and Ahmedabad. “We are also planning to take Hyderabad flight up to Bangalore by October-November end,” he said.