Millennium Post

No fresh AI plane order till clarity on privatisation: Lohani

No fresh AI plane order till clarity on privatisation: Lohani
National carrier Air India on Friday said it will not place any order for new aircraft till there is clarity on its future course, including possible privatisation.

The airline, however, said all the existing orders will be respected and new aircraft are being added to the fleet.

"Whatever has been ordered in the past, that is there," Air India Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani told reporters here, adding that no fresh orders will be placed right now.

Ordering of new planes is a long-term process by Air India and it usually takes 6-9 months, he added.

Asked how long the company would go without placing fresh orders, Lohani said: "We do not know. We have to keep on running the airline. There is no decision on that." He, however, denied reports that some old orders have been cancelled.

"No, not right. Whatever the orders, these were ordered before. These will be coming," Lohani said.

Giving details of Air India's order list, the CMD said: "We are adding 10 ATRs. We have placed order for 29 Airbus on lease. They have started coming now. But we are also grounding old aircraft.

We have lot of old aircraft. So the net addition will be only about 15 Airbus." Besides, the airline is procuring wide-bodied Boeing aircraft to its fleet to strengthen the international route.

"Also, seven more wide-bodies (Boeing) will be added in next 6-7 months. We are starting lots of international flights," Lohani said.

The state-owned carrier has a total of 103 planes, of which 42 are wide-bodied Boeing 777s, 747s and 787s, while 61 are narrow-bodied Airbus 319s, 320s and 321s.

Its low-cost subsidiary Air India Express has 23 Boeing 737s at present.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley has proposed privatisation of Air India and the Civil Aviation Ministry is looking at all options to make the airline strong and viable. A Cabinet note in this regard is likely to be prepared shortly, according to Minister of State for Civil Aviation Jayant Sinha.

Air India making profits in N-E, plans Guwahati-Bangkok flight

Air India's operations in north- east are profitable with a market share of 17 per cent and it is now looking to expand presence in the region, including a direct Guwahati-Bangkok flight, a top official said on Friday. "Some of our routes are not very profitable in north-east and has less occupancy. But we get a viability gap funding from the NEC. So, overall our operations are profitable in NE," Air India Chairman and MD Ashwani Lohani told reporters here. The company received a funding of Rs 35 crore from the North Eastern Council (NEC) during 2016-17 to operate flights to loss making routes in the region, he added. Lohani said the state-run carrier operates 24 flights daily to and fro north-east and is currently enjoying a market share of 17 per cent in the region against the pan-India share of 13-14 per cent.


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