Air India to press ahead to buy 27 Boeing 787s. The cash strapped airline is aspiring to go for a sale-and-leaseback project so as to tackle the financial burden this would entail. The Indian flag carrier has been in the red for few years now.

Air India is all set to go ahead with the purchasing of 27 Boeing 787 aircraft, which it decided to acquire in the year 2006.

During a conference held on Tuesday, the cash strapped airline’s board decided to go for a sale-and-leaseback arrangement instead of outright purchase that would, to some extent, aid the airline to cope with the financial burden this will involve.

Air India is the flag carrier of India and perhaps the first airline that comes in mind while booking flights to India. The carrier has the fourth largest share in India’s domestic air travel market. However, the airline has been under financial constraints for some time now and thus opting for various measures to improve its financial health.

Air India has planned to lease out some of its old and new planes so as to diminish its whopping debts of Rs 43,777 crore and internet sources reveal that the airline anticipates to save approx Rs300 crore by leasing aircraft.

Although, not a great news for those planning buy tickets with Air India, the airline also plans to consider proposals of replacing the full meals that are served onboard flights of less than 90 minutes duration with a snack and to terminate serving of hot meals completely on flights of less than one hour.

With ‘renegotiation of contracts in material consumption’ the airline expects to save Rs250 crore this financial year, the internet sources quoted two senior airline executives as stating on the condition of anonymity.

The board members of Air India have decided that once the airline gets the Boeing 787 Dreamliner, it possibly will lease out excess capacity of two Boeing 747-400 planes and some Boeing 777-200 long-range planes.

Boeing 787 Dreamliner is considered to be 20% more fuel-efficient than any other usual airliner and is 30% cheaper to operate. The budget travellers looking for cheap flight to India will possibly have a much better chance of netting the same with Air India that becomes first Indian airline to operate Dreamliner. Other than fuel efficiency and the resulting cheap flight tickets, the Boeing 787 also boasts fantastic interiors for more relaxed medium and long-haul flights to and from India.

Tussle on Who Will Fly the Planes

The pilot associations of the merged Indian Airlines and Air India have been for quite some time fighting over the right to fly the 787 Dreamliners.

Air India proposed a policy of 1:1 as per which one pilot each from Indian Airlines and Air India will be designated for the flight duty on the Boeing 787 aircraft. Although, Air India and ICPA (representing the IA pilots) favour the proposal, IPG (representing AI pilots) opposes it as it feels its pilots have exclusive right to fly the 787s and that the policy of 1:1 hinders the harmony of seniority between the pilots of two airlines. IPG has therefore challenged the carrier’s move in the court.

A popular Indian daily reveals that the IPG informed the Bombay high court on Wednesday that pilots of the former Indian Airlines did not possess necessary experience to operate the 787 aircrafts which are wide-bodied planes. The guild further claimed that it would entail a considerably higher cost to train Indian Airlines’ pilots to fly 787s – nearly four times the cost of training pilots from erstwhile Air India.

The IPG officials supported their claim that Air India pilots would be a better choice to train on the new aircrafts by reportedly expressing that they possessed requisite experience to fly the Boeing 777s wide body planes while Indian airline pilots have expertise only in flying the narrow body aircrafts.

It remains to be seen as to how Air India tackles the situation which has emerged due to the differences between the IPG and Indian Commercial Pilots Association over the airline’s proposed policy of 1:1 adopted for fulfilling its crew requirements.

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