All planes in the air — that’s the new message from Air India’s (AI) top brass to its engineering department — as the airline competes with private carriers for a larger share of the domestic market.
The national carrier, which is surviving on a bailout funded by taxpayers, has been struggling for far too long with issues of grounded planes for want of spares and engineering issues.
AI’s domestic market share stood at 15.5% in October, while rival and market leader IndiGo’s was at 36.8%.
The airline, sources said, has now set a target to get all its 66 A320s, which form the backbone of its domestic operations, airborne.
“In October, only 54 A320s were operational, which meant that around 20% of the fleet was grounded. That’s the perfect recipe to lose market share,” said a senior official.
In November, AI had 60 operational planes — a rare feat for the airline.
“Planes should not be grounded for the want of spares. Budget will not be an issue, and directions have been issued to maintain a proper inventory,” said another official.
“Around 10% of the fleet on the ground for checks is the norm. Anything more can be a recipe for disaster,” aviation expert Rajji Rai said.
Getting spares for planes has been a big problem for the airline. A brand new Dreamliner plane had been grounded since January this year for want of spares. It was only after the new chairman and MD Ashwani Lohani pulled up officials did the aircraft start operating again. AI also plans to add 40 planes to its fleet next year to take on the competition.