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A-I needs new aircraft badly

May 11, 2005 15:05 IST

Air-India, which is expanding at a rapid pace, badly needs more aircraft to fly to new destinations like Beijing as dry leasing option has almost reached a saturation point, a senior official said in Beijing.

"We badly need the new fleet," Commercial Director of Air-India V K Verma said without going into the lingering controversy over the national carrier's recent decision to buy 50 aircraft from Boeing, arch-rival of Airbus.

"We have grown at the rate of 30 per cent every year in the past three years by dry leasing aircraft. We have almost come to the saturation point by dry leasing aircraft. We need new aircraft to be inducted," Verma said.

Verma, who was elected as one of the six new vice presidents of the International Badminton Federation at its annual general body meeting in Beijing, said Air-India hopes to start flying to Beijing in 2006.

"Beijing should be on Air-India's map by late summer of 2006," he said, noting that the delay is due to the fact that the next batch of aircraft that have been ordered by Air-India on dry lease would be delivered only in the summer of 2006. Air-India started flying to Shanghai, China's commercial hub, in December 2003.

"Air-India's flights to Shanghai is doing well, though not entirely based on the China traffic. India-China traffic is about one-third and the other two-third is made up by India-Bangkok and Bangkok-Shanghai traffic," he said.

Air-India has increased frequency of the flights to Shanghai from twice a week to four services a week.

"However, considering that the India-Shanghai flight is just over a year old now, we are reasonably satisfied with the results," Verma said.

"Our attempt would be to increase the Shanghai operations to a daily flight and commence Beijing operations to four times a week and thereafter take it to a daily flight. Our master plan is to have a daily flight from Beijing and Shanghai to Delhi and Mumbai, crossing over at Bangkok," he added.

Air-India is going to increase its capacity to Southeast Asia, he said, pointing out that from July 7 the airline will launch flights to the South Korean capital Seoul.

"We are going to start four flights to Seoul via Hong Kong. We are increasing operations to Osaka, Japan. We are starting non-stop flights from Chennai to Kuala Lumpur and Singapore. All these flights will start from July seven," Verma said.

Commenting on the Air India Express, a budget airline, Verma said it has proved to be "a great successful experiment."

"It has made travelling reasonable and honest for the public and the response has been phenomenal," he said.

Air-India Express with a fleet of three Boeing 737-800s aircraft at the time of the launch on May 3, will operate 40 services a week from five points in India -- Kochi, Kozhikode, Thiruvananthapuram, Delhi and Mumbai to four destinations in the Gulf -- Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Al Ain.
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