Air India (AI) is in talks with Boeing to swap the order for three B777-300 wide-body aircraft for ten state-of-the-art B737 Max planes.
If the discussions fructify, it would be a huge boost for the debt-laden national carrier, which uses the B777 only for ultra long-haul flights to North America, and has deployed the B787 Dreamliner on majority of its international routes.
“We have three B777-300 slots for delivery in 2016. We are examining whether we can take B737 Max instead,” said an AI official, who did not wish to be named.
“We have begun discussions with Boeing and they are quite positive on it,” an AI spokesperson said.
“We do not comment on business discussions with our customers,” a Boeing spokesperson commented.
AI plans to deploy the fuel-efficient B737 Max on the AI Express fleet. AI Express is the national carrier’s low-cost arm. “737 Max would be useful for AI Express. They are looking for this particular type of aircraft, which will blend with their existing fleet of B737-800 planes. We hope to get 9-10 Max in exchange of 3 B777s,” the AI official said.
The earliest slots available for B737 Max are in 2020, AI sources said.
AI Express, the official said, is looking at leasing interim capacity and is in discussions with a few lessors.
“AI Express has a positive load factor of around 85% and is cash surplus. It has a lot of potential especially in the Gulf market. We plan to take seven-eight planes on short-term lease of about five years when we will, hopefully, get the 737 Max,” the official added.
“The 737 Max suits AI perfectly and will deliver significant fuel savings of up to 20% over the original next-generation 737s when they first entered service,” said Subhash Goyal, chairman, STIC Travel Group.