Will Dreamliner wake AI from its nightmare?

Sep 14, 2012, 07:40 IST | Bipin Kumar Singh

Airline officials are keeping their fingers crossed that the new aircraft will increase revenue but aviation experts are not ready to accept it as a game changer

The first of the expected 27 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircrafts has finally been inducted into the fleet of Air India. The government hopes that the aircrafts, with high-end features such as fuel efficiency, a seating capacity of 256 passengers and more leg space, will give a shot of life to the beleaguered national carrier’s sliding revenues. 

Air India staffers perform a traditional religious ceremony for safe flights
Flying on a prayer: Air India staffers perform a traditional religious ceremony for safe flights

High hopes
Union Aviation Minister Ajit Singh while talking about the aircraft said, “This is one of the finest aircrafts. Hope it will bring Air India back to its Maharaja days.”

Representatives of Boeing, who manufacture Dreamliner, also claimed that the aircraft would change the image of Air India. Rohit Nandan, CMD, Air India said that Dreamliner would be a game changer as the cost of operation for this new aircraft is much lesser than that of
the other older aircrafts in the AI family.

Poor logic
However, the airline’s logic has failed to impress those who have been associated with Air India earlier. “So many aircrafts joined the Air India family. At that time they were the best. The big question is, was AI able to utilise the aircrafts?” asked Captain D S Mathur, former managing director of Air India. “Only proper business planning, and better co-ordination at management and staff levels can change the fortunes of AI. The airline lacks these factors currently. They will have to come up with a foolproof plan that will keep the aircraft in the air so that it can generate revenue. No doubt it is a good aircraft but it depends on how it is utilised,” he said.

Capt Mohan Ranganathan, aviation expert and former AI pilot, said, “Whenever a foreign carrier like Singapore Airlines buys an aircraft, it takes a guarantee from the manufacturer that if the aircraft does not live up to the promises made, the manufacturer will have to compensate. Is Air India being given such an assurance? The airline doesn’t want to answer this question. Air India will have to operate like a professional carrier if it wants to change its fortunes. Better planning is needed to turn around this loss-making carrier.”

By the numbers
Air India has ordered 27 Dreamliner aircrafts. An additional five aircrafts will be delivered by the end of this year. Seven will be delivered next year, five in 2014, six in 2015 and three in 2016. The first Dreamliner that already arrived will make its maiden flight from Delhi to Chennai on Sep 19. 

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