Air India 3 Dreamliner aircraft lying idle in US

New Delhi: Uncertainty hangs over when Air India will take delivery of the first of the 27 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft it has ordered, even as three of them are ready and parked in the manufacturer`s plants in the US.

India`s national carrier is expected to take delivery of the aircraft only after the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) approves an agreement on the compensation package for Air India from Boeing for a four-year delay in delivery of Boeing 787 Dreamliner.

Though a Cabinet note on the issue was moved by the Civil Aviation Ministry several weeks ago, official sources could not confirm by when the matter would be taken up.

The Air India Board had on May 28 approved an agreement with Boeing on the compensation package and forwarded it to the government for approval.

Industry sources said any delay in taking delivery of the aircraft could also cost the airline. Globally, the final sale price of an aircraft is decided on the first of every month, after taking into account escalation in terms of depreciation and other factors.

Boeing, therefore, could be well within its rights to seek a higher price for the aircraft if delivery is pushed any further, the sources indicated.

The national carrier had placed orders to buy 27 B-787s in 2005 and as per the original schedule, the US aircraft maker had to commence the delivery of these aircraft from September, 2008. But their delivery was delayed due to various factors, including labour trouble in Boeing.

In spite of this delay, the first aircraft was ready for delivery by May end. It was also displayed at the Hyderabad air-show in March.

The first plane to roll out of Boeing`s newest assembly line in North Charleston in the US was also made for Air India and painted in its livery. Thereafter, the third plane was readied in Seattle.

All these aircraft have been certified by the US Federal Aviation Administration and the Indian regulator, and are awaiting delivery. Air India is the third global airline after All Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines to receive the aircraft.

The 58-day pilots` strike hit their delivery, though Air India trained 32 pilots to fly these Dreamliners when they are inducted. But they too are waiting in the wings for the past several weeks, the sources said.

After delivery, Air India plans to use the new aircraft to operate them on some high-density domestic routes like Delhi-Mumbai or Delhi-Hyderabad. They may also be used to operate on short-haul international routes such as flights to Singapore and Dubai.

The new aircraft can typically carry between 210 and 250 passengers on routes of 14,200 km to 15,200 km distance, although the distance between the metros is a fraction of what the aircraft can fly.

The sources said this was being planned as the crew needed to be trained on take-offs and landings. If the airline deploys the aircraft on international long-haul routes, such as operating to Europe, Australia and the United States, the training process will become a long- drawn-out process, they said.