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Air India waits its Dreamliner turn

New Delhi, Sept. 26: Boeing today delivered its first 787 Dreamliner to Japan’s All Nippon Airways even as Air India waits its turn. The national carrier is yet to get the first of the five Dreamliners it wants to be delivered this year to beef up its expansion-cum-turnaround plan.

Air India expects its Boeing 787s to be delivered by the end of this year. The airline had ordered around 27 Dreamliners and is expecting five planes to be inducted in the first year of delivery.

The airline plans to introduce eight international flights in the US and eastern Europe, while Air India Express, the national carrier’s subsidiary, will soon start flights to the Gulf and also increase the flight frequency on existing routes.

Air India has suffered losses of Rs 6,000 crore in revenues because of constant delays in the delivery of aircraft.

Early delivery of the Boeing 787s would have helped the beleaguered airline to launch long-haul flights to Australia, Europe and the US as part of its turnaround strategy.

However, airline officials said they would not wait for the delivery of the Dreamliners to start flights to the US, Australia and Europe during the upcoming winter schedule.

“If plans fall in place, then we would have three new destinations in the US and two in Europe. We had earlier decided to start direct flights to Melbourne,” said a senior AI official.

On the radar

Air India’s low-cost arm will operate direct flights from Muscat to three cities in Kerala Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram and Kochi.

AI Express has also rescheduled its flight operations that will start from October 31 and plans to add two aircraft to its fleet to achieve new targets, sources said.

The national carrier lost 32 profitable routes, including in the Gulf region, when in 2008 the government opted for route rationalisation.

Air India stopped flying on routes such as Bangalore-Bangkok, Chennai-Colombo, Calcutta-Bangkok, Calcutta-Singapore and London-New York.

The national carrier let go Gulf sectors from where it earned Rs 100 crore per annum, of which Rs 40 crore came from Doha and the rest from Bahrain.

Many international and domestic carriers already operate in the Gulf.

So, as part of the new strategy, the airline will initially start flights to and from Muscat and expand to other routes later. The government recently permitted Air India to fly to Oman.

According to officials, the airline will start services from Muscat daily to Kozhikode and Thiruvananthapuram, besides four flights per week to Kochi. Similarly, from Salalah, Oman, it will start two flights every week to Kozhikode, one to Thiruvananthapuram and another to Kochi.

“Rejuvenating the Gulf sector is part of the turnaround plan. We are using AI Express as it has aircraft designed for these short five-hour flights,” said a senior AI Express official.

He said the airline expected at least an 85 per cent passenger load in the winter.

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