Maharaja Wants Both Boeing, Airbus

New Delhi, November 8 | Updated: Nov 9 2003, 05:30am hrs
The Air-India board has given its approval to acquire as many as 28 new aircraft at a whopping cost of Rs 10,000 crore. This includes 10 Airbus 340s and 18 Boeing 737-800s as part of its fleet expansion plan.

The A-I board today considered the report of the in-house techno-economic negotiating committee and decided to recommend to the civil aviation ministry, acquisition of 10 long-range and 18 short-range aircraft for A-I, A-I public relations director Jeetendra Bhargava said here on Saturday.

The 10 long-range aircraft being recommended are Airbus 340s. For the 18 short-range Boeing 737-800s have been recommended. Both these aircraft shall be powered by CFM engines, he added.

The board was chaired by civil aviation secretary and A-I chairman K Roy Paul. The techno-economic negotiating panel was headed by operations director Capt NK Hathi.

The acquisition will be staggered over five years and will replace the existing 14 planes that it had taken on dry-lease. These include 11 Airbus 310s and 3 Boeing 747-200s.

A-I plans to raise money from international markets to fund the deal, and 85 per cent of the funds will come the US Exim Bank for the Boeing deal, and the European Credit Agency for the Airbus deal. The remaining 15 per cent of funds will be made through commercial loans, Mr Bhargava said, adding the acquisition process would start as soon as the government gives the nod.

Aviation law expert Ranjit Walia of Walia & Co said, this will help A-I to regain its market image as well as help it to fully utilise its flight rights which it has not been able to do for lack of aircraft.

Each Airbus 340 plane has 272 seats 10 first class, 27 executive and 225 economy, while a Boeing 737-800 has 146 seats, eight executive and 138 economy seats.

At present, A-I has 33 planes nine B747-400s of which three are on dry-lease, two B747-300s, three B747-200s and 19 Airbus 310s of which 11 are on dry-lease.

The board also decided to extend its ongoing VRS for non-operational staffers to those in operational areas, including pilots and engineers, Mr Bhargava said, adding of the total 15,650 employees, 6,000 are in the operational area. The VRS has been accepted by 250 staffers since February this year.