National carrier Air India took delivery of its 27th and last B787-8 Dreamliner today. This happens to be the 125th Boeing aircraft delivered to Air India.
The Dreamliner era for Air India started in September 2012 when VT-ANH and VT-AND joined the Air India fleet. Configured in 18 Business class and 238 economy class seats, the fleet with an average age of just over 3 years has helped Air India expand rapidly in Europe and launch routes to Australia.
The aircraft enabled the airline to launch newer destinations (many of them were earlier operated by the airline). The shift of the airline hub to Delhi coinciding with the induction, led to expansion in Europe and Australia along with international connectors & capacity addition on the domestic network.
The induction also saw the retirement of Airbus A310 from the fleet of the national carrier. The last of these birds were doing some hilarious routings between points in India and foreign shores.
Air India was one of the many airlines affected by the grounding of the Dreamliner owing to the battery flaw leading to fire and the aircraft remained on ground between January 2013 and April 2013. Air India had 6 Dreamliner in fleet at the time of grounding. The two leased A330s came to the rescue then for the airline when it clubbed few flights and made alternate arrangements.
The airline had an option of converting the last of the B787-8 to the B787-9, which is the longer and higher MTOW version of the aircraft. The airline neither exercised this option nor did it go ahead with the option of leasing the aircraft from open market. The -9 variant would enable the airline fly non-stop to destinations in the United states on the Dreamliner fleet. The existing non-stop destinations in USA are served by a mix of B77W and B77L fleet of Air India.
The airline fleet comprises of Boeing widebody (B787, B777, B747) aircraft and Airbus narrowbody aircraft. While the airline has grown rapidly in the last few years on the international side, an order for additional aircraft or sizable expansions would be on hold until the government decides on the next step of disinvestment or sale process. Hopefully, the last few dreamliners which were added would help the airline launch flights to Hong Kong and Frankfurt from Mumbai. Will the government lease additional planes to increase frequency on flights to Europe, when the flights mature or will it be left upto the new owner? Time will answer a lot about Air India!