Air India is planning to lease six B777 aircraft for the first time in at least 10 years, officials aware of the matter said and added this was being done largely as poor interiors were delaying flights to North America.
An official said flights to the US and Canada, specifically to Vancouver, have been delayed due to faulty seats recently. The airline recently made news for its plans of bringing back grounded widebodies and increasing flights to Vancouver.
Demand for direct flights to the US and Canada has skyrocketed in recent times, with the COVID pandemic becoming less severe. The leased aircraft will increase the frequency of Air India’s existing North American flights and possibly add more destinations.
“Taking into account the impact on the airline operations, it has been decided that the airline will lease six B777 to operate its ultra-long-haul flights [lasting over 16 hours),” an airline official said, requesting anonymity. “The [existing] aircraft have no other issues.”
According to Flightradar24, which provides real-time information about aircraft globally, Air India’s Delhi-Vancouver flight was repeatedly delayed including by 11 hours on July 10.
The aircraft will be leased for two years and be used for flight operations within three months. “The aircraft is set to arrive by October and will be operated in addition to the current aircraft…” the official said.
A second official cited the current demand and added the airline plans to either increase the frequency of flights or add destinations. “The six leased aircraft will not replace the previous ones but will be additions to the fleet.”
The airline separately plans to buy around 50 Airbus A350-900 and 100 A321neo aircraft and induct them by the middle of next year. Last month, the airline asked its pilots to prepare for training on the A350-900 aircraft.
The news of leasing additional 777s for long-haul flights comes even as the airline prepares to sell all three of its Boeing 777-200LR airplanes, which are less fuel efficient than the -300ER variant. Air India has a fleet of 141 narrow and wide-body Airbus and Boeing aircraft.
(With Inputs from Hindustan Times)