Airline plans to replace all its eight Boeing B-777 (LR) aircraft and make B-787 Dreamliners its workhorse over the next few years

As Dreamliners resumed operation on Wednesday, Air India said the Boeing 787s would be at the centre of the plan to revive its fortunes, replacing the fuel-guzzling B-777s. Air India Chairman and Managing Director Rohit Nandan made the announcement at the re-launch of Dreamliner flights from here to Bangalore and Kolkata. While AI-803 made a roundtrip to Bangalore early in the morning carrying 156 passengers and crew, AI-020 operated to Kolkata in the afternoon.

“We are replacing all our B-777s with which we have been operating our long-haul flights. The Dreamliners are a game-changer for us, as this aircraft will improve our revenues over the years. We will either sell or lease them [B-777]. We are in the market, talking to prospective clients, but can’t disclose anything more as it’s a commercial matter. We are already in discussion with Boeing to help us in this matter, but no time limit can be set for completion of the process…,” Mr. Nandan told journalists here.

Boeing’s senior vice-president Dinesh Keskar talked about the new batteries installed in each of the 50 B-787s which were grounded worldwide on January 16 after two lithium-ion batteries overheated and gave out smoke on two separate jets that month. “We are confident that the 787s are safe and we stand behind its overall integrity.”

Mr. Nandan said Air India would resume its Dreamliner service to London on May 22, and to Paris, Frankfurt and Chennai within this month. New destinations to be covered later this year would include Birmingham, Rome, Milan, Melbourne, Sydney and Moscow.

Asked whether AI would need to order more planes, he said: “As of now, we feel we have an optimal fleet with the 27 Dreamliners. We will have 33 more aircraft in our fleet with these 27 planes. We will take a commercial decision based on the situation later.”

To a question whether the Jet-Etihad deal would impact Air India’s flight plans, he said: “We are following a completely different model, providing point-to-point service and not with one stop. Under the Jet-Etihad deal, the two carriers plan to fly from 23 cities in India to various destinations across the globe via Abu Dhabi.”

As for the staff strength which now stands at 39,000, Mr. Nandan said that over the next five years, 7,700 employees would retire, while 15,000 would be transferred to the two subsidiaries. “So, AI will be left with around 10,000, becoming a much leaner organisation.”

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