Air India to open new routes on Boeing 787s

London, June 14 (IANS) State-owned Air India is looking to operate new international routes on its newly-acquired fuel-efficient Boeing 787 aircraft to gain market share and cut losses incurred on the domestic sector.

"We have extensive plans to scale up Air India's international network with low-fuel-consuming 787s, that will give Air India an edge over other airlines," Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told IANS here.

According to the minister, the highly fuel-efficient aircraft which utilises advance technologies like composite materials, newly-developed engine and advanced avionics will be used to open up new routes to Europe, Australia and Africa and other major destinations in the coming days.

"Plans are being worked out for the national carrier to provide direct services to major destinations around the world. The 787s will be used to open up new routes which are financially viable for the airline to operate."

The airline hopes that it can gain market share by operating more international flights, which will offset its losses on the domestic sector, that has seen budget carriers overtaking Air India on major inbound routes.

The airline held the third-largest domestic market share at 19.2 percent in April, 2013, just behind budget passenger carrier like SpiceJet at 19.6 percent and IndiGo at 29.8 percent.

According to officials, the airline can ramp up its profitability by scaling up its international operations rather than domestic ones, by tapping into the exponential increase in passenger traffic towards the US, Europe, China, Japan and other major destinations like Australia.

"There is an upwards trand in international passenger traffic to and from India, which is not hindered by the slowdown in the economy. In the coming time, we will focus on this segment to drive our market share," a senior Air India official told IANS.

"With the 787s, we have another opportunity to operate at a lower fuel cost with an efficient and advanced aircraft. This gives us huge cost advantage that we will utilise on several international segments."

The national carrier also plans to operate New Delhi-Birmingham, Sydney-Melbourne services from August, New Delhi-Rome-Milan flight from October and New Delhi-Moscow schedule operations from next year on the Dreamliner aircraft.

The airline also plans to re-operate its Mumbai-Nairobi route.

The airline's enthusiasm for starting new routes on Dreamliner can be gauged from the fact that the aircraft has been instrumental in replacing the fuel-guzzling Boeing 777 on some international routes.

Buoyed by the aircraft's performance, the ministry has asked the carrier to explore the possibility of operating it to Bali and Istanbul.

The airline currently has six 787s and will take delivery of eight more by the end of this year, another five in 2014, six in 2015 and two in 2016.

Air India had booked 27 Boeing 787s in 2006 in a mega-deal.

The development also assumes significance as Air India was not operating to many countries whose national or private airlines were operating to India.

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