Monday, January 23, 2012

Dreamliner delay may ground Air India’s Australia plans

Air India’s plans to become the first Indian carrier to start operations to Australia could be in jeopardy since the arrival of Dreamliners is delayed again.

The Boeing 787 planes, also called Dreamliners, were to arrive in January but there has been no word from Boeing on their revised arrival schedule till now.

Multiple sources tell us that the US authorities are yet to certify the engines for these aircraft and deliveries are unlikely to happen soon.

Once the airplanes arrive, they will have to be certified by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation. Alongside, AI will have to conduct extensive training of its pilots and cabin crew for these aircraft.

“If these aircraft get further delayed, AI’s plans to begin services to Melbourne would be in serious jeopardy. The Government of Victoria is already miffed at the delay and any further postponement of this flight could create an awkward situation since no other Indian flight offers connections to any Australian city at present,” said a senior official in the Ministry of Civil Aviation, unwilling to be named.

The Dreamliners were also expected to be used to connect Frankfurt, London, Hong Kong, Dubai and Seoul with Delhi. From Mumbai, the aircraft were scheduled to fly to Shanghai via Delhi, Singapore and Dubai.

AI has 27 Dreamliners on order and its board of directors has already decided to lease these aircraft out immediately after deliveries. Still, the final decision on whether to buy the aircraft at all or prune the order size rests with the group of ministers, which is slated to meet by the end of January.

Already, deliveries of these Dreamliners have been delayed for three years.

The Dreamliners are crucial to AI’s turnaround since the airline currently lacks any medium-haul aircraft. They were ordered along with some other aircraft (total 111 planes) by AI in 2005 and the order was worth Rs45,000 crore.

As per the current schedule AI has drawn up, 11 aircraft should arrive in 2012.

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