Air India on Monday, September 12 said it will progressively induct 30 new aircraft, including 5 wide-body Boeing planes, from December 2022, as the Tatas-owned airline looks to boost its domestic and international services.
The airline has signed leases and letters of intent for inducting 5 wide-body Boeing and 25 Airbus narrow-body planes over the next 15 months. The planes being leased include 21 Airbus A320 neos, 4 Airbus A321 neos and 5 Boeing B777-200LRs.
Changing its business model, Air India has decided to introduce a premium economy class in all newly-leased planes. Air India’s existing fleet is mostly limited to economy and business class. A few planes in its fleet also have first class.
Vistara, which is a 51:49 joint venture of the Tata Group and Singapore Airlines, is the only other airline in India that offers premium economy class.
“These new aircraft, which will enter service from late 2022, will increase the airline’s fleet by over 25%. Not counting the 10 long-grounded narrow-body and 6 wide-body aircraft that have been returned to service in recent months, these new aircraft mark the first major fleet expansion since Air India’s acquisition by the Tata Group earlier this year.”Air India
The B777-200LRs will join the fleet between December 2022 and March 2023. They will be deployed on routes from Indian metro cities to the US.
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.
There has been a huge demand for Air India flights on India-US and India-Canada routes, especially after the outbreak of Covid-19 in 2020 and the Russia-Ukraine war earlier this year.
Since the start of the pandemic, the India-US traffic that passed through the eastern side — one-stop flights via Hong Kong or Beijing — has reduced significantly. After the Ukraine attack, Russia banned American and Canadian carriers from flying through its airspace. That forced many airlines to curtail their India-US flights.
“After a long time without significant growth, Air India is delighted to resume expanding its fleet and global footprint. These new aircraft, together with existing aircraft being returned to service, address an immediate need for more capacity and connectivity, and mark a strong step forward.”Campbell Wilson, CEO and Managing Director, Air India
“These aircraft will result in Air India offering Premium Economy haul flights for the first time,” the statement said. According to the release, the 4 A321 neo aircraft are expected to join the fleet in the first quarter of the calendar year 2023, while the 21 A320 neos will be inducted in the second half of 2023.
These aircraft will be deployed in domestic sectors as well as for short-haul international destinations.
Currently, the airline’s narrow-body fleet stands at 70 aircraft. Out of them, 54 are in service and the remaining 16 aircraft will progressively return to service by early 2023. Air India’s wide-body fleet stands at 43 aircraft, of which 33 are operational. The rest will return to service by early 2023.
Air India will redesign flight schedules, hold nightly meetings, and ask employees to accurately report flight delays and their causes to improve the carriers’ on-time performance (OTP), Campbell had said earlier this month.
The Tata Group on October 8 last year won the bid for Air India at INR 18,000 crore and it completed the acquisition earlier this year.