Air India’s financial situation needs no introduction. They have been underutilising their fleet, and grounding aircraft for lack of spares. While they stick the label of maintenance, the lack of spares is a direct result of a lack of cash to buy them. They even took to scavenging aircraft earlier (removing parts from some aircraft to fit into another one). While IndiGo can’t find enough planes to fly, there are many Air India A321 grounded for months now.
As of now here is the inventory of aircraft out of action,
Reports are that Air India will reactivate the grounded narrowbody fleet and roster them back in service. All Air India A321 will be operational by December 2018 according to the airline. However, Air India has not announced any new A321 routes apart from two redeye flights and a functional change in one route to Singapore for a couple of months.
They did manage to operate all routes even with 15% of their narrowbody fleet grounded in September 2018. Since then, they have added Bengaluru – Bangkok, Kolkata – Bangkok and Jaipur – Kolkata on an Airbus A321, Delhi – Nanded on an Airbus A319 and will operate Ahmedabad – Bengaluru on an Airbus A319. Between September and November, 3 Airbus A319 and 2 Airbus A321 aircraft were already back in service. Wonder where the 6 Airbus A321s will fly.
I know Air India will operate an Airbus A321 on Mumbai – Singapore and Chennai – Singapore route till January 27, 2018. But it is doing so by replacing the Boeing 787s that operates the route. Jet Airways is also switching to narrowbody operations on the Mumbai-Singapore route.
Is it a similar case with Air India’s widebody fleet too?
Apart from the narrowbody fleet, Air India also has several widebody aircraft out of action. Well, unlike the narrowbody fleet, we don’t know when the widebody aircraft will be back in the air. Most of them are undergoing maintenance for quite a few months now.
Air India does take a lot of time for maintenance. One such example is VT-ANO (Boeing 787). It went out of service on May 18, 2018, after completing a New Delhi – Mumbai flight. It returned to service on October 27, 2018, on the Mumbai-Ahmedabad route. The aircraft was out of service for more than five months. VT-ANK, another Boeing 787 has been out of service for more than four months now. That is a long time for maintenance.
As a point of comparison, a heavy C/D check on a Boeing 777-300ER takes approximately two months.
In the airline business, a plane makes money only when it is in the air. Other airlines push their aircraft utilisation, putting them in the air for 14-15 hours, and Air India has them on the ground. What a terrible state of affairs.