Sunday, April 24, 2016

Air India grappling with Dreamliner woes

Facing frequent technical problems in its Dreamliner fleet, Air India has found itself in a spot as absence of contractual provisions is hindering the national carrier’s efforts to get financial compensation from aircraft maker Boeing.

Air India, which is working on efforts to turnaround its fortunes, has been grappling with technical glitches and other malfunction with the “game-changer” Dreamliner aircraft since their induction in the fleet over three year ago.

The every now and then glitches have forced the national carrier to ground Boeing 787-800 planes on multiple occasions, which has resulted in long flight delays and significant loss of revenue.

Last month alone, at least two Dreamliners were grounded by the airline, one in Paris and another in Kolkata, in the wake of technical problems.

A senior Air India official said many rounds of discussions have taken place with respect to seeking compensation from Boeing but efforts have not been successful so far.

“There is no provision for (financial) compensation with respect to technical problems in Dreamliner under the agreement signed with Boeing,” the official said.

The absence of such a provision in the contract is hindering the possibility of getting compensated for the technical glitches but still efforts are being made in this regard, he noted.

Air India has already inducted 21 Dreamliners in its fleet and six more are to be delivered to it by August 2018.

Though the airline management had also considered options such as replacing the remaining six planes with five latest version (B 787-900) aircraft, the proposal did not find favour with its board.

Significantly, the Government-run airline has also been forced to take the delivery of three B 777-300ER planes, which it wanted to cancel earlier due to the absence of “cancellation” clause in the purchase agreement with the US aircraft maker.

After initially deferring the delivery of these planes, Air India now plan to induct them in the fleet next year.

Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma had last year said that the Technical Dispatch Reliability (TDR) of Air India’s Dreamliner fleet was lower than the average TDR due to frequent glitches in the aircraft while admitting that there have been technical delays on account of snags in these planes.

TDR is the ratio of the number of flights delayed due to technical faults to the total number of flights, expressed as a percentage.

These snags were related to software glitches and a few others such as windshield cracks, valve failure, oil loss and TCAS (Traffic Collision Avoidance System) failure, Sharma said earlier.

Interestingly, the national carrier’s engineering union has been vocal on the issue and last year had urged the management to defer deliveries of the remaining aircraft till Boeing addresses the technical issues.
The union had also called upon Air India management to seek compensation for the adverse impact on the carrier’s on-time performance due to grounding of the planes.

Last month, another Air India official had said Boeing “perpetually failed” to address the technical issues with Dreamliners, which result in frequent grounding of the planes

According to officials at the airline, frequent problems with Dreamliners have been resulting not only in revenue loss but also adversely impacting the on-time performance — a key metric for the ailing Air India.

Air India, which was one of the first customers of the Dreamliner planes, currently has 21 Boeing 787-800s in the fleet, of the 27 planes it had ordered with the US aircraft maker in 2005.

As a part of its fleet expansion plans, Air India had in January, 2006, placed orders with Boeing Company for 68 aircraft, including 27 Dreamliners and 41 B-777s and B-737- 800s.

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