Air India on Monday, December 5 said it will lease 12 more aircraft comprising both Airbus A320 Neo and Boeing B777, which are expected to be inducted in its existing fleet in the first half of 2023. The new planes will be deployed on the airline’s short, medium and long-haul international routes.
Air India said it has leased 42 aircraft since its privatisation in January this year. Of the 12 new leased planes, six are wide-body Boeing B777-300ER, while the remaining six are narrow-body Airbus A320 neo, as per the statement.
The airline had in September this year announced that it will be adding 30 leased aircraft — 21 A320, 4 A321 and 5 B777-200LR in its fleet over 15 months, amid its plan to have a 30% share in both domestic and international markets.
The A320 neo will be operated on the airline’s domestic as well as short-to-medium haul international routes. The airline said the B777-300 ER will have a four-class configuration — first, business, premium economy and economy — to connect metro cities with more international destinations.
This means an addition of 36 aircraft — 11 B777s and 25 A320 family — by early next year with vastly improved cabin interiors, as opposed to the poor passenger experience on Air India’s existing fleet that has suffered due to lack of investment in upkeep or maintenance during its past penurious few years as a government-owned airline.
In addition to leasing aircraft, Air India has also brought back into operation 19 aircraft, which were grounded for a long time while nine more such planes are expected to join the fleet, it stated. As part of the expansion, Air India is enhancing the frequency of flights between key cities on domestic routes, besides announcing the expansion of international flight services.
“Growing our network is an essential part of Air India’s Vihaan.AI transformational journey and we remain committed to increasing connectivity and frequency of flights both domestically and internationally. The additional aircraft leases will support the airline’s near-term growth even as it finalises plans to refresh and significantly grow the company’s long-term fleet.”Campbell Wilson, Managing Director and CEO, Air India
Air India has raised the frequency of flights in the domestic sector and has also announced direct flights between Indian cities to destinations like Doha, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Birmingham.
Air India has been focusing on its international expansion during the last few months. In December, the carrier is scheduled to operate 809 international flights per week, which is about 22% more than what it operated in June, according to aviation analytics company Cirium’s data.
Last week the airline resumed its non-stop service between Bengaluru and San Francisco with a Boeing B777-200LR. Last month, Air India said it will commence direct flights from Delhi to Milan, Vienna and Copenhagen starting February 1, 2023.
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The airline said it will also start daily services between Mumbai and New York from February 14, 2023, using a Boeing B777-200LR, besides flights to Paris and Frankfurt from India’s financial capital starting February 18 using the Boeing B787-8 Dreamliner.
With the resumption of these flights, Air India will serve seven cities in Europe with 79 weekly non-stop flights — 48 to the United Kingdom and 31 to continental Europe.
As US and European airlines avoid Russian airspace making their transit time to India longer and in some cases making many flights unviable, Air India has stepped up to take advantage of the situation. The airline has increased the frequency to the UK from 34 flights every week to 48. Flights from India to the US will increase from 34 to 40 per week.
Air India has a fleet size of 113 aircraft of which 87 planes were operational as of September. These included 54 narrow-body airplanes and 33 wide-body aircraft. The inoperative 16 narrow-body aircraft and 10 wide-body aircraft are expected to return to service by early 2023.
With the latest announcement, the fleet size of Air India will increase to 149 from 113 currently. IndiGo is the largest airline in India with a fleet size of over 280 airplanes.
The Tata group and Singapore Airlines (SIA) announced last week that Vistara will be merged into Air India to create a single full-service airline, with SIA holding a 25.1% share in the new entity. AirAsia India is already in the process of merging with Air India Express to create a single low-cost subsidiary of Air India.