Many of you will have read Mark Caswell’s recent piece regarding Air India’s mammoth order for new aircraft.
But what does it mean for the consumer? For starters we can reveal that six initial A350s, due for delivery later this year, will have an up-to-date cabin layout: 28 business, 24 premium economy and 264 economy seats.
These six A350-900s are part of a cancelled order from Russia’s Aeroflot.
It's been confirmed by the @airindiain (AI) CEO that the 6 ex- Aeroflot (SU) #A350-900 will arrive configured in the SU config i.e.,
28 Business (J);
24 Premium Economy; and
264 Economy seats.
Going by these photos, AI has a total winner on its hands. Bravo !#AvGeek #PaxEx pic.twitter.com/joZTqDDlOz
— VT-VLO (@Vinamralongani) February 27, 2023
Of course on delivery they will carry the Air India external livery on but interior changes will be modest.
In other words Air India colours and logo will replace those of Aeroflot.
There is nothing unusual with this. Lufthansa’s initial batch of B787s was part of a cancelled order by China’s Hainan Airlines (although Lufthansa remained rather quiet about their origin).
So what will Air India do with its enormous fleet? I mean it’s not like the old days when Air India was its nation’s sole international airline.
Besides expanding existing services we can expect to see Air India launching new routes and especially to those classified as secondary destinations.
In the case of the UK this would include additional and new services to Manchester and Birmingham, for example, along with points in mainland Europe.
Air India recently announced plans to move four existing UK routes from Heathrow to Gatwick airport at the end of March, enabling the carrier to add additional weekly frequencies to its Heathrow services to Delhi and Mumbai.
Air India would also want to expand its sixth-freedom operations (those services taking travellers from one country to another via a third) which means tapping traffic, for example, between Europe, Asia and Australia, or between China and Africa via India.
Sixth freedom traffic flows are already lucrative for the Gulf carriers and they must be concerned about future competition.
In particular the Gulf carriers already carry huge numbers of customers between Europe and India and between India and North America.
So it’s no surprise that Dubai-based Emirates is already considering some form of arrangement with Air India.
The news comes from ‘Mint’ quoting Mohammad Sarham, Emirates VP India and Nepal as stating that “Talks [with Air India] are at an early stage. So just initial-level talks are on and let’s see how it evolves.”
Business Traveller will keep readers updated with developments.