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.
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 type||Aircraft Registeration||Status||Airport Grounded At||Last Flight||Last Flight on||Notes|
|A319||VT-SCN||Operational||Kolkata||AI 628 NAG-BOM||February 7, 2019||Back on March 6, 2019 AI 705 CCU-DIB FlightAware shows only 5 flights operated from November 28, 2018 to February 27, 2019|
|A319||VT-SCR||Operational||Mumbai||AI 626 LKO-BOM||April 07, 2019||A few one off flights in June and July 2019, back from August 7, 2019|
|A319||VT-SCS||Operational||Mumbai||AI 662 GOI-BOM||February 10, 2019||Back on June 29, 2019 as AI 54 BOM-COK|
|A319||VT-SCT||Grounded||Delhi||AI 821 IXJ-SXR||January 14, 2019||Before that operated AI 812 LKO-DEL on 12-11-2018|
|A319||VT-SCU||Grounded||Mumbai||AI 668 TRV-BOM||December 26, 2018||Operated one-off flight HYD-BOM on March 15, 2019|
|A319||VT-SCV||Operational||Delhi||AI 1764 DEL-CCU||January 17, 2019||Operated one-off flight BHO-BOM on March 23, 2019. Back on June 7, 2019 as AI230 CCU-DAC|
|A319||VT-SCX||Grounded||Delhi||AI 628 NAG-BOM||February 3, 2019||FlightAware shows only 5 recorded operated flights since 13-11-2018|
|A321||VT-PPL||Operational||Hyderabad||AI 542 HYD-TIR||February 2, 2019||Accident 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|
|A321||VT-PPM||Operational||Delhi||DEL-BOM (Cancelled)||June 21, 2018||Back on May 8, 2019 as AI 91 BOM-AMD|
|A321||VT-PPN||Grounded||Hyderabad||AI 541 TIR-HYD||January 29, 2019|
|A321||VT-PPT||Operational||Mumbai||AI 683 BOM-GOI||August 11, 2018||Back on March 8, 2019 AI 618 HYD-BOM|
|A321||VT-PPU||Grounded||Mumbai||AI 665 DEL-BOM||September 20, 2018|
|A321||VT-PPW||Grounded||Mumbai||AI 614 AMD-BOM||April 3, 2019|
|A321||VT-PPX||Grounded||Delhi||AI 806 BOM-DEL (Cancelled flight on November 28, 2018)||Maybe July 22, 2018 as AI 630 NAG-BOM|
|A320||VT-EDC||Operational||Delhi||AI 820 BDQ-DEL||February 19, 2019||Back on July 2, 2019|
|A320||VT-EDF||Operational||Delhi||AI 840 HYD-DEL||February 13, 2019||Back on March 20, 2019 AI 439 DEL-MAA|
|747-400||VT-ESP||Operational||Mumbai||AI 5226 MED-BOM||September 18, 2019||Back on March 9, 2019 as AI 144 BOM-DEL|
|747-400||VT-ESO||Operational||Mumbai||AI 966 HYD-BOM||May 28, 2019||AI 1|
|747-400||VT-EVA||Grounded||Mumbai||AI 191 DEL-BOM||May 13, 2019|
|747-400||VT-EVB||Operational||Mumbai||AI 966 HYD-BOM||January 29, 2019||Back on June 24, 2019 as AI 144 BOM-DEL|
|777-300ER||VT-ALO||Grounded||Mumbai||BOM-BOM||August 9, 2018|
|777-300ER||VT-ALU||Operational||Nagpur||AI 1469 DEL-NAG||September 22, 2018||Back on June 6, 2019 as AI 144 BOM-DEL|
|787-8||VT-ANB||Operational||Mumbai||AI 349 DEL-BOM||January 7, 2019||Back on May 24, 2019 as AI 31 BOM-AMD|
|787-8||VT-ANG||Operational||Mumbai||AI 331 BKK-BOM||April 7, 2018||Back on May 22, 2019 as AI 31 BOM-AMD|
|787-8||VT-ANJ||Grounded||Mumbai||AI 865 DEL-BOM||October 9, 2018|
|787-8||VT-ANK||Operational||Mumbai||AI 331 BKK-BOM||July 8, 2018||Back on April 6, 2019 AI 330 BOM-BKK|
|787-8||VT-ANM||Grounded||Mumbai||AI 863 DEL-BOM||January 2, 2019|
|787-8||VT-ANN||Operational||Mumbai||AI 349 DEL-BOM||February 25, 2019||Back on April 13, 2019 AI 310 BOM-DEL|
|787-8||VT-ANO||Operational||Mumbai||AI 315 DEL-BOM||April 28, 2019||Back on July 12, 2019 AI 687 BOM-DEL|
|787-8||VT-ANU||Operational||Delhi||AI 121 DEL-FRA Suffered mid-air decompression.||March 6, 2019||Back 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?