Tuesday, December 6, 2022

Air India will introduce premium economy class on select long-haul flights next month

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Air India will introduce premium economy class on some of his long-haul international flights next month, his chief Campbell Wilson said on Saturday as the Tata group-owned airline works on ways to expand its market share and global network. Speaking at an event hosted by JRD Tata Memorial Trust here, Wilson also said there are opportunities India and Air India to become major players in world aviation within ten years.

Wilson, general manager and CEO of Air India, said the airline will increase its market share on domestic and international routes to at least 30 percent.

Air India is implementing a long-term revival plan and aims to expand its widebody and narrowbody fleet and expand its global network in the next five years, he added.

“The short term actions have been to replace carpets, curtains, seat cushions and covers. To repair faulty seats and inflight entertainment systems as quickly as supply chains allow. And where parts are no longer available on the market, work with the likes of Tata Technologies to design and produce parts yourself.

“We have recently and will be completely revamping the domestic inflight menu, and will be launching premium economy on select long-haul international flights next month,” he said.

According to Wilson, the airline has recovered nearly 20 planes that had been grounded for years due to lack of parts and money. Aside from the cabin interior, this required the purchase of more than 30,000 parts that had been cannibalized over the years to make other planes fly, he added.

In addition to restoring long-grounded aircraft, he said the airline has finalized leases for an additional 30 aircraft to be delivered over the next 12 months, starting next week, with more in the final negotiation phase.

“In addition to these near-term additions, we are in deep discussions with Boeing, Airbus and engine manufacturers for a landmark order of the latest generation of aircraft that will drive Air India’s medium and long-term growth. At the risk of gross understatement, the investment will be significant,” he said.

Noting that Air India’s transformation trajectory will be phased, Wilson said it will be taxiing, re-establishing the base and preparing for growth over the next six months.

“For the next year, we are kicking off, building excellence and attracting those who may not have thought of Air India before, and by April 2024 or thereabouts, we will leverage the work done in the earlier phases to rise rapidly so that by 2027 we have reached the heights of our ambition,” he added.

Air India has expanded both nationally and internationally, the latter including more flights to Vancouver, Sydney and Melbourne.

“We now fly nonstop to London from seven Indian cities,” he said, adding that the airline will add new nonstop services to San Francisco, New York and Newark from Mumbai in a few weeks.

According to him, Air India has received more than 62,000 cabin crew applications.

Emphasizing that the airline is no longer under any financial or other constraints, he said: “Turning Air India around and restoring it to glory is a test match, not T20. It will require patience, determination and partnerships. While there will be six and four at times, it will mainly be the steady accumulation of singles and doubles.”

The rapid development of new Indian airports and the government’s regional air connectivity program UDAN to support domestic development routes will only enhance the network effect that will drive further growth, he stated.


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