Tata Group-owned Air India is close to finalising lease agreements for additional aircraft as it aims to grow its market share and network.
“In addition to restoring long-grounded aircraft, we have finalised leases for 30 additional aircraft being delivered over the next 12 months – starting next week – with more in the final stages of negotiation,” the airline’s chief executive officer (CEO) Campbell Wilson said on Saturday.
Currently, the airline has 113 aircraft which include both narrow-body and wide-body Airbus and Boeing planes.
Wilson is leading Air India’s five-year transformation programme to make it a world-class airline. This includes short-term measures like restoring grounded aircraft, improving cabin interiors and investing in new aircraft and technology solutions.
“We are in deep discussion with Boeing, Airbus and engine manufacturers for a historic order of the latest-generation aircraft that will power Air India’s medium and long-term growth. On product, we also have short and medium-term actions. The short-term actions have been to replace carpets, curtains, seat cushions and covers. To fix defective seats and inflight entertainment systems as fast as supply chains will allow,” Wilson said at the JRD Tata Memorial Trust event.
The airline has revamped its inflight menu on domestic flights and will be doing so for international flights as well. Premium economy service will be launched next month as Air India begins inducting the Boeing 777-200 LR aircraft.
These aircraft that were earlier flown by Delta Airlines will be used to launch new services to the US.
“We have expanded both domestically and internationally, including more flights to Vancouver, Sydney and Melbourne. We now operate non-stop to London from 7 Indian cities. From Mumbai we’ll be adding new non-stop service to San Francisco, New York and Newark starting in a few weeks,” he said.
The CEO said Air India is attracting top talent and is forging partnerships with vendors.
“Partners see the potential of the new Air India. They see that our aspiration is not to be better, but to be best,” he said.
Wilson also recounted Air India’s glory days when it was known for its fine service and also the contributions it made in building other airlines in the world.
” I have personal experience of this: Even in New Zealand, where I started my aviation career, my first boss had started his aviation career with Air India. Air India helped train the cabin crew of the airline (Singapore Airlines) I served for 26 years, one that is today renowned for its inflight service,” he remarked.