New Delhi: Dreamliner is yet to begin its flight for New Delhi but Air India’s fortunes continue to hinge on its arrival.
The Boeing 787 aircraft is critical for AI’s turnaround since it is an ideal medium haul aircraft which burns lesser fuel than, say, a 777 and would be ideal for European destinations for the loss making airline.
An airline source pointed out that the plan is to take deliveries of eight Dreamliners by March next year and after using each on domestic sectors for two-three months, to use them on medium haul routes.
AI is looking to begin its Melbourne-Sydney-Delhi and Sydeny-Melbourne-Delhi flights in the winter schedule on the Dreamliners. Gradually, these aircraft would replace the existing fuel guzzlers on Paris, Frankfurt, London and Dubai flights of Air India. Also, there are plans to start new services to Dhaka, Kuala Lumpur and Colombo on these aircraft in the winter schedule.
Air India has ordered 27 Dreamliners and the first batch was supposed to be delivered in September 2008. However, the delivery was delayed due to design and production issues at Boeing Co. This led to a compensation battle between the government and the plane maker, and was resolved only in August when the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs approved the compensation package for the delay.
Now the compensation package is again stuck with the Law Ministry, which is writing it in language appropriate enough to pass muster in the United States.
AI sources said compensation amount has been decided on a per plane basis but pilots we spoke to referred to that total package being about $200-250 million broken into several components. This amount could not be independently confirmed. The sources quoted earlier also referred to a pending delivery schedule for three more Boeing 777 aircraft which can be taken anytime before 2016.
Also, some A320s are to be taken for expanding AI’s domestic capacity. Meanwhile, AI will have to hire more type rated pilots to be able to use all the 27 Dreamliners efficiently as they get inducted in batches. It has already had trouble with the longest strike by wide body pilots in its history earlier this year.