New Delhi: Air India announced on Monday that it had leased five Boeing wide-body aircraft and 25 Airbus narrow-body aircraft, which will start flying in December.
Since the Tata Group took over management of Air India on January 27, this is the airline’s first significant fleet expansion. Because wide-body aircraft have larger fuel tanks, they can fly longer routes like those between India and the US.
“The aircraft being leased include twenty-one Airbus A320neos, four Airbus A321neos and five Boeing B777-200LRs,” Air India said. The lessors will deliver the planes by 2023-end, helping the airline increase its fleet size to 143 aircraft.
Air India has changed its business strategy and will now offer passengers a premium economy class. All recently leased aircraft will offer premium economy. Business class and economy classes are available on Air India’s current aircraft. There are a few first-class aircraft in its fleet.
Air India will now offer premium economy as well after changing its business model. There will be first class on the five B777-200LR aircraft.
The only other airline in India with premium economy is Vistara, a 51:49 joint venture between Tata Group and Singapore Airlines.
Air India will also be buying aircraft as part of its fleet expansion efforts and has been in talks with Airbus and Boeing for the past few months. After a large length of time has passed since the purchase order is placed with one of the two businesses, it is anticipated that new plane deliveries will start. As a result, Air India has opted to carry out its rapid expansion using leased aircraft.
There are 70 aircraft in Air India’s narrow-body fleet, 54 of which are operational. There are 43 wide-body aircraft in its fleet, 33 of which are flying right now. By early 2023, the remaining wide-body and narrow-body fleets will gradually start operating again.
According to the airline, the leased B777-200LR aircraft would be added to the fleet between December 2022 and March 2023 and used on flights from Indian metropolises to the USA.
“Mumbai will see the addition of flights to San Francisco as well as to both of the New York area’s international airports, Newark Liberty and John F Kennedy, while Bangalore will receive a 3x weekly service to San Francisco,” it said.
Particularly with the COVID-19 breakout in 2020 and the Russia-Ukraine crisis in February of this year, there has been a significant demand for Air India flights on routes between India and the US and India and Canada.
Since the start of COVID-19, the amount of India-US one-stop flights via Beijing or Hong Kong has considerably decreased. Following the start of the Russia-Ukraine conflict, Russia prohibited American and Canadian airlines from operating in Ukrainian airspace, which forced airlines like United to reduce its India-US service.
The four aforementioned A321neo aircraft are anticipated to enter the Air India fleet in the first quarter of 2023, while the 21 A320neo aircraft will be introduced in the second half of 2023, according to Air India.
Both domestic and short-haul foreign routes will be served by these narrow-body aircraft.
As it worked on its fleet growth plans, Air India raised the retirement age for its pilots two months ago from 58 to 65.
“After a long time without significant growth, Air India is delighted to resume expanding its fleet and global footprint… Air India has exciting expansion and renewal plans, of which these new aircraft are just the beginning,” said Campbell Wilson, chief executive officer and managing director of Air India.
Campbell had stated earlier this month that Air India would revamp its flight plans, hold nightly meetings, and require staff to accurately record flight delays and their causes in order to increase the carrier’s on-time performance (OTP).
On October 8 of last year, the Tata Group, with an offer of Rs 18,000 crore, won the Air India auction.
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