Air India operates a 3x weekly Boeing 777-300ER service between Delhi – Washington DC. This service was launched in 2017 and continues to operate three times a week with a Boeing 777-300ER. From a very close relative who recently travelled on this rotation AI103/AI104, the flight clocked a decent load, although it was not full.
Air India has, however, in a baffling move, started to display that from January 8, 2020, onwards, a Dreamliner will make the Delhi – Washington DC operation. Like you can see below, the January 5, 2020 flight is showing to be operated by a 77W on the Air India website and the GDS systems.
However, the next flight on January 8, 2020, shows up to be operated by a Dreamliner.
The same information is on various travel booking websites as well.
Here is where this becomes baffling. Air India was one of the first operators of the Boeing 787 when the aircraft entered service in 2012. Which also means Air India has some early airframes which were heavier as compared to the usual 787s which are delivered now, compromising their range/payload a bit. As per Boeing, the 787-8 can operate a maximum range of 7305 nautical miles (13,530 km) with 248 passengers in a two-class configuration.
Air India has a 256 passenger configuration, and as per Air India’s website, the aircraft, with a full payload (Cargo and passengers), would be able to fly 5100 nautical miles (9445 kilometres).
However, Air India flies these aircraft between Delhi and Sydney all the time, which is about 5627 nautical miles (10422 km), and perhaps the longest route flown for Air India with the 787-8s.
The flight between Delhi and Washington DC, on the other hand, is 6523 nautical miles (12080 km) as the crow flies, which is another 900 nautical miles beyond the longest 787-8 route that Air India flies at the moment.
Factoring in the fact that some of the later 787s can deliver the range, Air India will then be scheduled flights on a regular basis on the back of an aircraft which won’t be flying with cargo perhaps, and still will be pushing the edge of the range envelope for the aircraft.
Curiously, the website of the airline continues to state that the aircraft operating this flight pair is a Boeing 77W.
This could be a mistake, or Air India is really up to something. Especially with headwinds in the winter weather, this looks like an idea that pushes it. Airlines have to carry reserve fuel, and I would imagine in this case the aircraft would operate with a few seats blocked off to make sure they can make it that far.
What do you make of Air India’s intentions to fly a Boeing 787-8 between Washington DC and Delhi?
(with additional reporting by Karan Patel)