Air India might fly all-economy international flights using the eight Boeing 777 200-LRs the airline has in its fleet, if a plan to sell the aircraft fails to take off.
“We have decided to sell the eight Boeing 777 200-LRs we have in our fleet.
"If we are unable to sell or lease the aircraft, we will fly them all-economy on international routes,” a senior official at Air India said.
Sale of aircraft is the first option for the airline, which is already in talks with Boeing to find potential buyers.
At present, Air India offers eight first class, 35 business class and 195 economy class seats in its Boeing 777 200-LRs.
The airline would have to reconfigure the aircraft to drop the first and the business class seats in its flights to fly all-economy on mid-haul routes.
“The occupancy in business class is about 70-80 per cent, at par with other airlines. However, the passenger load factor in first class is continuing to pose problems.
"The per seat cost is now making heavy operations unviable,” the official added.
Cabin interior retrofit, which is removal or replacement of seats, involves huge costs and may go up to Rs 30 crore (Rs 300 million) per aircraft, a source informed. Apart from changes in seating, the work involves changes in cabling and removal of overhead cabins and interior lighting.
“Technical analysis needs to be carried out to examine load bearing capability of aircraft floor beams and the same needs to be certified.
"A separate certification for each aircraft is required from the US Federal Aviation Administration,” an airline executive said.
While the official declined to specify the routes the airline is considering to fly the Boeing 777 200-LR on an all-economy mode, the executive informed the all-economy planes can be used on key domestic routes such as Mumbai-Delhi or on Gulf sectors.
Air India, at present, flies the Boeing 777-200-LRs on Newark, Hong Kong-Osaka and Shanghai routes.
Overall, Air India flies 20 Boeing 777 200-LRs and Boeing 777 300-ERs to the US, Europe, China, Japan, Korea and Saudi Arabia. But operational profitability has been a concern.
A case in the point is the Delhi-Japan route, which is being serviced by a Boeing 777 and requires Air India to have 95 per cent passenger load factor or occupancy to make the route profitable.
The government carrier has plans to replace the Boeing 777s with the Boeing 787 to the Europe and Far East routes to address the route and plane mismatch in Air India’s operations.
The turnaround plan of Air India, in fact, banks largely on the induction of Boeing 787 Dreamliners, as they are said to be 20 per cent more fuel efficient than comparable aircraft.
Air India, which will have a fleet of 14 Boeing 787s by December 2013, has drawn out plans to begin full-fledged international operations utilising the new aircraft starting August 2013.
Air India plans to commence flights from Delhi to Birmingham and Sydney-Melbourne from August, Rome and Milan from October and Moscow from early next year.
- The airline would have to reconfigure the aircraft to drop the first and the business class seats in its flights to fly all-economy on mid-haul routes
- Cabin interior retrofit, which is removal or replacement of seats, involves huge costs and may go up to Rs 30 crore (Rs 300 million) per aircraft
- The work involves changes in cabling and removal of overhead cabins and interior lighting