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Air India to lease six B777-300ERs to expedite expansion

Air India has announced that it will lease six Boeing B777-300ERs to expedite expansion. This is in addition to the already announced lease of B777-200LRs.

Six B777-300ERs incoming

Air India will lease six Boeing B777-300ERs “to enhance operations” These aircraft are expected to be inducted in the first half of 2023. The decision to lease six aircraft is in addition to the thirty leased earlier this year including twenty one Airbus A320s, four Airbus A321s and five Boeing B777-200LRs.

These six B777s will feature First Class, Business Class, Premium Economy and Economy seats. These aircraft “will be deployed to connect Indian metro cities with more international destinations”.

Growing our network is an essential part of Air India’s Vihaan.AI transformational journey and we remain committed to increasing connectivity and frequency of flights both domestically and internationally. These additional aircraft leases will support our near term growth even as we finalise plans to refresh and significantly grow our long-term fleet.

said Mr. Campbell Wilson, CEO & Managing Director, Air India.

The airline’s aggressive expansion plan has already witnessed 19 long-grounded aircraft returning to the skies with 9 more to follow even as the airline has stepped up lease of narrow and wide-body aircraft. As part of the expansion, Air India has raised the frequency of flights between key cities on the domestic sector and has also announced direct flights between Indian cities and key global destinations like Doha, San Francisco, Vancouver, and Birmingham. The airline recently announced that it will resume flights to three European destinations – Milan, Vienna and Copenhagen and will introduce new flights from Mumbai to New York JFK, Paris and Frankfurt.

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Full speed ahead!

Air India is aggressively planning its expansion and the leasing of additional B777s is a small step in that direction. For quite some time now, we have been hearing rumours about Air India planning a big order for its future fleet but nothing has been announced yet.

The airline is leasing a total of 36 aircraft – 25 narrowbody and 11 widebody – for near term growth. Till the time a new order is placed and new aircraft start arriving, the leased aircraft will help the airline grow in the near future.

From the passenger experience point of view, this is both good and bad. The bad being that the hard products on these aircraft “may” be different. The five B777-200LRs that the airline has leased are ex-Delta aircraft which feature the new Delta One Business Class seats and updated Premium Economy and Economy Class seats. Now, it is not clear from where the six B777-300ERs will come from but the hard products on them may be different from those on B777-200LRs. The product differentiation may be too much.

The good thing is that the passenger experience on these 11 B777s will be very different but hopefully in a good way.

It’s good to see Air India expanding overseas when other international carriers are finding it very hard to operate flights that used to use Russian airspace, given that it is now closed to most of the foreign airlines.

Meanwhile, Tata Group and Singapore Airlines recently announced that they will merge Air India and Vistara to form a single airline.

Featured image by Wikimedia Commons

What do you think of Air India leasing B777-300ERs for near term growth? Let me know in the comments section below.

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