Air India has been working towards bringing enough capacity back to the skies to work a formidable challenge to the one-stop options between India and North America. To this effect, they’ve already signed on lease six Boeing 777-200LR and six 777-300ER aircraft. The first Boeing 777-200LR has already arrived in India.
Air India to spend USD 400 Million on refurbishing the existing wide-body fleet.
Air India’s existing wide-body aircraft have been in bad shape. This is a topic I first touched upon in 2016. Here is how their Boeing 787 looked earlier on in January 2022.
Six years later, we finally have some good news. Air India has announced plans to refurbish its legacy wide-body fleet, comprising 27 Boeing B787-8 and 13 B777 aircraft, committing over USD 400 million (roughly INR 3,300 Crores) for the project. This refurbishment will completely overhaul existing cabin interiors, including adding new seats and inflight entertainment across all classes. That means Air India will not go for refurbishing the 777-200LRs on their own fleet, which are already on the market.
Air India has engaged London-based product design companies, JPA Design and Trendworks, to assist with this refurbishment programme’s cabin interior design elements.
Air India to introduce Premium Economy on the legacy fleet.
While Air India will see the merger of Vistara, they are also taking another step towards making Premium Economy more mainstream on their metal. Air India has confirmed that there will be Premium Economy on the 787 and 777 fleets. This move was long overdue, given Premium Economy has become popular amongst travellers who want a bit more than economy but don’t want to splurge on Business cabins. This led to the likes of Emirates committing to Premium Economy, eventually. Additionally, with Vistara, they may have already seen the data towards Premium Economy utilisation on international segments.
Air India to retain First Class on the 777s.
While the world is moving towards eliminating First Class, Air India will retain their First Class cabin on the 777s. And there could be a good reason for that. For instance, there will be a market for a roomier, more comfortable and more expensive product on their Ultra Long Haul flights between India and the US. Otherwise, they would cede that money-spending market to Emirates and Lufthansa, amongst others. Also, Air India’s First Class is not over the top.
The complete interior refurbishment entails significant regulatory and engineering preparation, which commenced earlier this year. This lengthy but necessary process, and the time required to manufacture seats, is expected to lead to the first aircraft entering service in mid-2024.
Commenting on the widebody cabin refurbishment programme, Mr Campbell Wilson, MD & CEO of Air India, said,
Under our Vihaan.AI transformation program, Air India has committed to attain the highest standards of product and service befitting of a world-class airline. We know that, at present, the cabin product on our 40 legacy widebody aircraft falls short of this standard. Although the project commenced some months ago, we are delighted to now publicly announce this significant investment on a complete interior refit, and we are confident that, when revealed, the new interiors will delight customers and show Air India in a new light. We are working closely with partners to accelerate the refit process as fast as possible and, in the meantime, leasing in at least 11 new widebody aircraft with brand new interiors to improve our offering at the earliest opportunity.
Air India is working towards getting its hands on as many aircraft as it can. To this effect, while they are inclined to order new aircraft, in the long run, they will be getting their existing aircraft stitched up to get the next 10-12 years of service out of them in the short term.
What do you make of Air India’s plans towards fixing its existing fleet?
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