Air India this week launched its Vihaan.AI “transformation plan” to re-invigorate the privatized, loss-making national carrier acquired by the Tata group for $2.7 billion. The project announced from its New Dehli headquarters on September 19 spells out the main elements of a five-year plan to reshape its flight network and refresh its fleet, as well as revamp customer service and improve reliability and on-time performance.
Under the “Vihaan-Air India” roadmap, which means “the dawn of a new era,” the carrier aims to increase its share of India’s domestic air transport market from the current figure of just 8 percent to 30 percent. It also intends to expand its network of international services.
Last week, Air India confirmed its first fleet renewal plans since the Tata group acquired the company in January 2022. It plans to increase the number of aircraft it operates by more than 25 percent by leasing 21 Airbus A320neos, four A321neos, and five Boeing 777-200LRs. As-yet-unspecified leasing groups will supply the aircraft starting in December 2022, with deliveries due for completion by the end of 2023.
The new 777-200LR widebodies will deploy on new services connecting major Indian cities to the U.S., featuring premium economy seats for the first time. They will include new flights connecting Mumbai and Bangalore with San Francisco, and also services to the New York City-area Newark Liberty and JFK International airports.
Air India will use the additional Airbus narrowbodies for domestic services and for short-haul international flights to neighboring South Asian countries. “These new aircraft, together with existing aircraft being returned to service, address an immediate need for more capacity and connectivity, and mark a strong step forward, said the carrier’s new CEO and managing director, Campbell Wilson, who formerly served as CEO of Singapore Airlines’ budget carrier Scoot. “Air India has exciting expansion and renewal plans, of which these new aircraft are just the beginning.”
Wilson also said that Air India will invest in refurbishing existing aircraft cabins and accelerate efforts to avoid problems with unserviceable seats and malfunctioning inflight entertainment systems. As part of a move to make its fleet maintenance program more efficient and proactive, the carrier recently issued a request for qualification directed at maintenance, repair, and overhaul providers covering work on 65 narrowbody aircraft. Until recently, the airline has given all MRO work to Air India Engineering Services, which is still government-owned, but now it intends to make the process more competitive.