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A-I decision on 50 new aircraft in Jan

Last updated on: December 30, 2004 17:25 IST
A Boeing support team has arrived to help Air-India in the induction of a Boeing 777 jet into the fleet, even as the airline board is expected to take a final decision on the acquisition of a 50 aircraft fleet next month.

The six-member Boeing team is helping in training pilots and engineers for Air-India to deploy the 296-seater twin jet on Mumbai-London-Mumbai sector from January 6.

Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said on Thursday that the government was in the process of giving clearance for 18 Boeing 737-800, to be inducted by the airline for Air-India Express, the low cost airline to be launched in March.

He said government would also extend full support to A-I, which is expected to take a final decision on its 'shopping list' of 50 aircraft, which include the ultra-long and medium capacity long-range jets of 250-350 seat capacity.

Technical bids have been received from Boeing (for 747, 777-200 Long Range and 777-300) and Airbus Industries (A340-500 and 600 and A330-200), which would be discussed at the board meet next month, A-I officials said.

Patel said the decision of allowing private airlines on the international sector would in no way affect A-I as it had all along been facing competition from bigger international carriers.

Both Patel and A-I chairman and managing director V Thulasidas admitted that it was becoming extremely difficult to get aircraft on lease as no new generation planes were available in the market due to heavy demand.

Thulasidas said the non-availability of leased aircraft may hit route expansion plans to the US, Australia and South Africa via Mauritius during next year.

He said A-I was expecting to take six more aircraft on lease, subject to their availability, to operate flights from Delhi to Amritsar-Birmingham-Toronto, to London and later to Los Angeles, Mumbai to Sydney, South Africa via Mauritius and stepped up services to Shanghai.

The minister, when asked if synergy of operations between Air-India and Indian Airlines would ultimately lead to a merger, said there was no such proposal at the moment.

On whether A-I and IA have made profits during the first six months, Patel said despite high fuel prices, the two airlines have "performed reasonably well."

Referring to the restructuring of Delhi and Mumbai airports, Patel said the bidding process would be completed by March 31 while the upgradation of 30 non-metro airports would be completed by 2005-06.

Patel said after induction of 747-400s in 1993, this is the first time a new type of aircraft were joining the A-I fleet.

Two more 777s would join in March and these are likely to be deployed on the Los Angeles sector. The new aircraft have been taken on a lease of $6,75,000 per month per aircraft.

Operations director M K Hathi said foreign pilots would initially fly the 777 while co-pilots would undergo training, which would be held at Ahmedabad and Chennai.

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