Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Air India earmarks Rs 500 crore to get grounded aircraft operational: Report

TO MEET high demand and raise its market, national carrier Air India has earmarked Rs 500 crore to get 19 of its grounded passenger jets back into operations.
Currently, the national passenger carrier has 19 aircraft grounded due to various reasons most prominent amongst them being expensive spare parts and engine overhauls.
However, an increase in demand due to the peak travel season along with industry's capacity constraint has led the airline to earmark at least Rs 500 crore for the grounded fleet.
"This is an opportune time to raise our market...
share and meet the healthy demand. All our assets (aircraft) have been deployed strategically. But we still have more aircraft which are grounded," a senior Air India official was quoted as telling a news agency.
"We expect at least two aircraft to join the fleet within days. Addition of other aircraft will aide us to augment our market share."
Notwithstanding the fresh funds, the official said that all grounded aircraft are unlikely to become operational before August.
Over 10 Airbus A320s and the rest Boeing 787-800s Dreamliner and a few Boeing 777s have been grounded.
Air India's fleet augmentation is also in line with the government's request to airlines to advance their aircraft induction plans.
As of 2019, Air India Group — Air India, Air India Express, Alliance Air — have a combined fleet of over 160 aircraft which fly to 122 destinations, including 78 domestic and 44 international destinations.
Additionally, the airline plans to hire more cabin crew and pilots. The plan envisages the airline to hire over 200 cabin crew from the now grounded Jet Airways.
"We have already finalised 150 crew from Jet Airways," the official added.
Meanwhile, Air India’s plan to lease five Boeing Co. 777 aircraft of Jet Airways (India) Ltd has hit a roadblock as the biggest lender to the grounded airline has still to respond to the offer.
“We have submitted our plans (to lease the aircraft) to State Bank of India (SBI) and we are yet to hear from them," a senior Air India official was quoted as saying.
A consortium of lenders of the airline led by SBI took control of Jet Airways, in March, after the airline defaulted on interest payments in December and eventually shut operations amid a cash crunch and large debt. The consortium of banks has also thrown open a bidding contest for a new investor that is expected to be completed in the June quarter.
Air India chairman Ashwani Lohani had in April expressed interest to lease the five Boeing 777 planes from Jet Airways and deploy them on key international routes. Meanwhile, the state-run carrier, which has a portion of its fleet grounded due to ongoing maintenance and repair work as well as an engine overhaul, hopes to get at least a few of those planes in service in the coming months. “We are spending at least Rs 7-10 crore every day on grounded aircraft," said the official cited above adding that the airline has been funding the maintenance work from its internal accruals.
Air India, which has a fleet of about 123 aircraft, has offered three of the newer generation CFM Leap 1-A engines that power its Airbus A320neo fleet as collateral, for purchasing five new CFM 56-5B engines, the airline said in a recent tender. This move from the national carrier comes after it had exhausted sovereign guarantee to raise more loans, and had to come up with other means to raise $45 million to finance the purchase of the five CFM 56-5B engines for its Airbus A320 aircraft.

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