Air India Ltd is trying to make itself more attractive to potential bidders by deploying a greater number of high-end seats for the lucrative London market and adding new flights by repairing grounded aircraft.
The carrier started using Boeing Co 777 jets for flights to London from New Delhi, replacing the smaller 787 Dreamliner that now flies three times a week to Washington. The 777 offers four first-class and 35 business-class seats and can return from London the same day given it’s a 10-hour flight. The Dreamliner doesn’t offer first class and has fewer seats in the business section.
Air India’s Director of Finance Vinod Hejmadi said most of the 340 seats on the London flights are being filled, compared with fewer than 260 before. The airline already operates a 777 for the Mumbai-London route.
In addition, none of Air India’s widebody aircraft are grounded any more after
engineers repaired as many as nine planes, according to Meenakshi Malik, head of commercial operations. The appointment of a single agent — Travelport Worldwide Ltd — for domestic ticket sales is also likely to save the carrier more than $70 million this year, Malik said in New Delhi.
Air India started as Tata Airlines in 1932 and flew mail between Karachi and Bombay, as Mumbai was called then.
The airline later became popular commercially. Its fortunes faded with the emergence of cutthroat low-cost carriers like IndiGo, which Air India struggled to cope with as it remained bogged down by red tape. Air India has been unprofitable since its 2007 merger with state-owned domestic operator Indian Airlines, and is saddled with more than $8 billion in debt.