Air India shoots off the hip, retreats on acquiring Jet Airways 777 Fleet

Count it in the I told you so section. In April 2019, exactly on the day Jet Airways was crumbling, Air India made an ambitious proposal, to take over 5 of the Boeing 77W aircraft owned by Jet Airways, and operate routes such as Mumbai – London, Mumbai – Dubai, Delhi – London, Delhi – Dubai and Delhi – Singapore with those aircraft. Who did they reach out to? State Bank of India, who, till date has no control over Jet Airways.

Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER

Jet Airways Boeing 777-300ER

Now, this seems to be a plot unravelled. Air India has passed on the blame to SBI. Air India says to Mint,

We have submitted our plans (to lease the aircraft) to State Bank of India (SBI) and we are yet to hear from them.

But another publication states,

The engineering unit has done the work around the B777s and found no merit in taking them.

At the point in time, it was our contention, that Air India does not have the slots to operate additional flights. As Karan wrote, then,

To operate additional flights if that’s what Air India is suggesting, you need slots which Air India doesn’t have, sort of. Air India did secure an extra 3x weekly slot pair at London Heathrow for Summer 2019. But they haven’t added any new flights to London Heathrow. We don’t know if they still have those extra slots or not.

We also wrote that Air India has 24 aircraft on the ground, which, if fixed, would be enough to take the load off the airline. Here is the list presented again,

Aircraft typeAircraft RegisterationStatusAirport Grounded AtLast FlightLast Flight onNotes
A319VT-SCNOperationalKolkataAI 628 NAG-BOMFebruary 7, 2019Back on March 6, 2019 AI 705 CCU-DIB FlightAware shows only 5 flights operated from November 28, 2018 to February 27, 2019
A319VT-SCROperationalMumbaiAI 626 LKO-BOMApril 07, 2019A few one off flights in June and July 2019, back from August 7, 2019
A319VT-SCSOperationalMumbaiAI 662 GOI-BOMFebruary 10, 2019Back on June 29, 2019 as AI 54 BOM-COK
A319VT-SCTGroundedDelhiAI 821 IXJ-SXRJanuary 14, 2019Before that operated AI 812 LKO-DEL on 12-11-2018
A319VT-SCUGroundedMumbaiAI 668 TRV-BOMDecember 26, 2018Operated one-off flight HYD-BOM on March 15, 2019
A319VT-SCVOperationalDelhiAI 1764 DEL-CCUJanuary 17, 2019Operated one-off flight BHO-BOM on March 23, 2019. Back on June 7, 2019 as AI230 CCU-DAC
A319VT-SCXGroundedDelhiAI 628 NAG-BOMFebruary 3, 2019FlightAware shows only 5 recorded operated flights since 13-11-2018
A321VT-PPLOperationalHyderabadAI 542 HYD-TIRFebruary 2, 2019Accident at Tirupati Airport. Before that operated last flight AI 24 DEL-BOM on 12-01-2019. Back on July 27, 2019 as AI 661 BOM-GOI
A321VT-PPMOperationalDelhiDEL-BOM (Cancelled)June 21, 2018Back on May 8, 2019 as AI 91 BOM-AMD
A321VT-PPNGroundedHyderabadAI 541 TIR-HYDJanuary 29, 2019
A321VT-PPTOperationalMumbaiAI 683 BOM-GOIAugust 11, 2018Back on March 8, 2019 AI 618 HYD-BOM
A321VT-PPUGroundedMumbaiAI 665 DEL-BOMSeptember 20, 2018
A321VT-PPWGroundedMumbaiAI 614 AMD-BOMApril 3, 2019
A321VT-PPXGroundedDelhiAI 806 BOM-DEL (Cancelled flight on November 28, 2018)Maybe July 22, 2018 as AI 630 NAG-BOM
A320VT-EDCOperationalDelhiAI 820 BDQ-DELFebruary 19, 2019Back on July 2, 2019
A320VT-EDFOperationalDelhiAI 840 HYD-DELFebruary 13, 2019Back on March 20, 2019 AI 439 DEL-MAA
747-400VT-ESPOperationalMumbaiAI 5226 MED-BOMSeptember 18, 2019Back on March 9, 2019 as AI 144 BOM-DEL
747-400VT-ESOOperational MumbaiAI 966 HYD-BOMMay 28, 2019AI 1
747-400VT-EVAGroundedMumbaiAI 191 DEL-BOMMay 13, 2019
747-400VT-EVBOperational MumbaiAI 966 HYD-BOMJanuary 29, 2019Back on June 24, 2019 as AI 144 BOM-DEL
777-300ERVT-ALOGroundedMumbaiBOM-BOMAugust 9, 2018
777-300ERVT-ALUOperationalNagpurAI 1469 DEL-NAGSeptember 22, 2018Back on June 6, 2019 as AI 144 BOM-DEL
787-8VT-ANBOperationalMumbaiAI 349 DEL-BOMJanuary 7, 2019Back on May 24, 2019 as AI 31 BOM-AMD
787-8VT-ANGOperationalMumbaiAI 331 BKK-BOMApril 7, 2018Back on May 22, 2019 as AI 31 BOM-AMD
787-8VT-ANJGroundedMumbaiAI 865 DEL-BOMOctober 9, 2018
787-8VT-ANKOperationalMumbaiAI 331 BKK-BOMJuly 8, 2018Back on April 6, 2019 AI 330 BOM-BKK
787-8VT-ANMGroundedMumbaiAI 863 DEL-BOMJanuary 2, 2019
787-8VT-ANNOperationalMumbaiAI 349 DEL-BOMFebruary 25, 2019Back on April 13, 2019 AI 310 BOM-DEL
787-8VT-ANOOperationalMumbaiAI 315 DEL-BOMApril 28, 2019Back on July 12, 2019 AI 687 BOM-DEL
787-8VT-ANUOperationalDelhiAI 121 DEL-FRA Suffered mid-air decompression.March 6, 2019Back on May 31, 2019 as AI 20 DEL-CCU.

There is now news flow, that Air India has indeed marked INR 500 crores to fix these aircraft, which is money it did not have before. They intend to fix up these aircraft and get them in the air. I’d perhaps advise them not to. It would be too little too late. Because if they haven’t gotten in on the party so far, they will miss out the great opportunities being presented in the next months for flights to London anyway.

One may argue that opportunities continue to present themselves long term, but you also need to be ready to get those opportunities ready first. And perhaps they are, as India’s only widebody operator at this moment, going to take their time to get their act in order. Call it lethargy.

What do you make of this entire Air India episode? Did anyone expect this to play out as stated in the first place?

About Ajay

Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe. Ajay is a frequent contributor and commentator on the media as well, including ET Now, BBC, CNBC TV18, NDTV, Conde Nast Traveller and many other outlets.

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