Air India's Boeing 787 Dreamliner to fly domestic from Sept 19
New Delhi: Air India's new Boeing 787 Dreamliner will start flying on domestic routes from September 19, with the airline hoping that the fuel-efficient aircraft will bring back its good old 'Maharaja' days by saving costs.
With Air India implementing its turnaround and financial restructuring plans for several months now, the beleaguered national carrier has reported a cash surplus of Rs 48 crore between April and July against a cash deficit of Rs 586 crore during the same period last year.
"Dreamliner is an exciting plane. We hope that it will take Air India back to its good old 'Maharaja days'," Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told reporters here.
US manufacturer Boeing claims the Dreamliner consumes 15 -20 percent less fuel than an aircraft of the same size, thus substantially reducing fuel costs which comprises 40 percent of an airline's total operational costs.
"Dreamliner will start flying on domestic routes from September 19. The first flight will be on Delhi-Chennai route. Later on, six more destinations will be added. It will fly on international routes in winter," Air India CMD Rohit Nandan said.
Singh, along with former Civil Aviation ministers Shahnawaz Hussain and Rajiv Pratap Rudy and Congress MP Naveen Jindal, cut the ribbon to formally launch Air India's first Dreamliner at a function at the IGI airport.
With the government already committing to provide Rs 30,000 crore to the cash-strapped carrier, he said no more funds would be given to the airline which would now on have carry out aggressive cost-cutting measures to become competitive.
Air India would take deliveries of five more B787s by the end of this year, seven in 2013, five in 2014, six in 2015 and three in 2016, he said, adding the airline would need to add more planes to expand its share in the domestic as well as international market.
"After the pilots strike, we have started to fly all destinations except Toronto, but we are not content with our market share. We need more aircraft but it is a long term plan and will be done after the approval of the Cabinet," Singh said, adding Air India has set up a committee to look into its future aircraft requirement.
"For the first time since the 2007 merger, Air India has made a cash surplus of Rs 48 crore during April-July. The net losses of Air India during this period have reduced by Rs 557 crore," the minister said.
The airline's expenses also dropped by 4.4 percent in the same period, coming down by as much as Rs 268 crore compared to the same period last year.
Despite the recent pilots' strike that caused a 17 percent reduction in Air India's capacity, the airline posted an increase of 6.5 percent in passenger load for the period of April-August, he said.
Air India's revenue on the domestic network increased by 33 percent between April and August.
"It is an increase of Rs 531 crore," Singh said, adding the airline also posted an increase of over 25 percent in yield from Rs 3.43 per passenger kilometres in 2011 to Rs 4.29 per passenger-km between the same period this year.
Speaking about reinstatement of pilots who were sacked following the strike, he said, of the total 413 pilots, 316 had reported sick en-masse and have been taken back.
"Out of remaining 97 pilots whose services were terminated, 50 have been recommended for reinstatement, five were not found suitable for reinstatement while the case of remaining 42 was still under consideration," he said.
The national carrier in July, 2012 had formed a three- member committee to look into the issue of reinstating 101 sacked pilots.