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Room for Dreamliner sibling

New Delhi, Nov. 18: Air India’s Boeing 777-20LR aircraft will be used for short routes, with the airline failing to get any takers for the aircraft that had become surplus following the arrival of Boeing’s Dreamliner.

The national carrier had in January offered five of its eight B777-200 LR aircraft on dry lease for six to 10 years. Air India had purchased the 777s on loan guaranteed by the US Exim Bank and is offering them on a sub-lease. However, even after floating tenders four times, the airline has not found any takers because of poor seat configuration.

Internationally, this type of aircraft has about 290-to-300-seat capacity, while the ones with Air India have 238 seats.

Air India officials said the airline had planned to scrap the tender and might reconfigure the aircraft with an all-economy class seating configuration to use them on short-haul routes such as to the Gulf and Southeast Asian nations. It may also use the whole line of B777s for its low cost operations.

“We have plans to start low-cost services to various domestic and international sectors, but all this is presently in the planning stage,” said the official.

The national carrier has been trying to part with these aircraft and operate the Boeing 787 Dreamliners in its place. Three of the Dreamliners ordered in January 2006 have arrived and three more are expected by this year.

Of the eight B777s that Air India has, four were acquired in 2007, one in 2008 and three in 2009. All eight are part of the national carrier’s 67 aircraft order from Boeing over six years back. In place of these, the national carrier will use the Dreamliners for long-haul routes. It recently started operations to Frankfurt and will soon fly to Australia and the US.

Dry-leasing of these aircraft was part of Air India’s turnaround plan. Dry leasing is an arrangement in which the airline leases the aircraft without its crew, ground staff and support equipment.

According to a recent review by Australia-based aviation consultant Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa), Air India has failed to be decisive in its plans to launch domestic low-cost operations which have been repeatedly delayed.

“In light of Kingfisher’s grounding and the space this opens up in the full service segment, Air India is likely to yet again postpone a decision on establishing a domestic low-cost carrier,” Capa stated.

 
 
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