There is renewed hope for many Air India planes on the ground as the carrier’s new owners plan to repair them for commercial operations. AI has several narrow-body aircraft and some wide-body aircraft that are gathering dust due to lack of engine overhaul or non-availability of components and spares. But they could soon be back in the air as these issues are reportedly being addressed.
More planes needed as part of aviation recovery
Air India wants to take advantage of renewed passenger demand by adding more capacity in the coming months. The airline’s chart in the domestic sector has been steadily declining over the years as private players capture the market by increasing the fleet and capacity.
But with the Tatas keen to restore the AI presence, many of the carrier’s grounded planes could see better days ahead. According to the Business Standard, the airline is working on a plan to gradually return grounded planes to service.
According to ch-aviation, AI has more than 25 families of inactive A320 aircraft and several inactive Boeing 777s and 787s as well. Sources say that around 8-10 A320 aircraft are being restored in the hangars of AI Engineering Services Limited. There are also plans to repair some of the grounded Boeing 787s for service in the next 90 to 100 days.
The Tatas want several of AI’s grounded planes back in the air in the coming months. Photo: Getty Images
Funds are available now
Much of Air India’s earlier problems were due to inefficient management, which resulted in a lack of funds to repair many of its planes. Some of the carrier’s A320 planes haven’t flown in years because it lacked sufficient funds to repair issues such as engine overhauls and other maintenance issues.
The costs to resolve these issues ran into the tens of millions, which the cash-strapped carrier could not arrange. As a result, it gradually lost market share to other airlines and saw its overall position in India decline over the years.
But with the Tatas backing the airline, funds are no longer an issue. An airline executive told the Business Standard that the current challenge is not money but timely deliveries of components and spares, which must be ordered months in advance.
While repairing the majority of its ground fleet will take a few months, Air India is trying to repair as many planes as it can immediately to meet the needs of returning passengers.
The current challenge for AI is not money but timely deliveries of components and spare parts. PhotoGetty Images
The question surrounding the future development of Air India’s fleet has grown since Tatas won the tender for its takeover last year. The conglomerate is said to be in talks with Boeing and Airbus for long-haul planes, but it remains to be seen whether orders will go to Europe or the United States.
The Airbus A350 and the Boeing 787-9 are in the running, but according to some experts and inside sources, a concrete decision will be made when there is more clarity on the AI-Vistara merger. In March, Bloomberg reported that Air India was looking to buy 30 widebody aircraft worth nearly $10 billion.
The case for the Dreamliner seems strong, given that AI already operates a huge fleet of 787s and Vistara relies on them for long-haul operations as well. But its current production backlog could push AI towards Airbus, which has stepped up efforts to sell its A350 jets to India in recent days.
Hopefully, we’ll get a better idea of the carrier’s future fleet structure sooner rather than later.
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Source: Trade Standard