Air India pilots say 23% of airline’s fleet grounded due to lack of spares

New Delhi: Days after questioning the safety of flights they are operating, the pilots association of Air India has claimed that almost 23% of the airline’s fleet is grounded for lack of spares.
On August 10, of the total 72 aircraft in the fleet, 12 were grounded. This doesn’t include ATR plane operated by Air India Express, an affiliate. The 23% is the average of the percentage of aircraft Air India grounded over the past few days
The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) said aircraft worth about $3.6 billion USD or Rs.25,000 crore (at today’s list price) are lying idle in airport hangars.
“Additionally, a significant number of flights are getting cancelled/rescheduled on a daily basis. There are also aircraft fleet swaps which result in last minute change of inventory resulting in non-optimal revenue management and utilization,” ICPA said in a letter to Air India’s chairman and managing director Pradeep Singh Kharola .
“ Since we are an airline and our primary business is to fly planes and since we have incurred huge debt to procure aircraft, with impossible-to-pay interest, is there any reason why these aircraft continue to remain grounded? All of this is having a significant impact on the bottom-line of Air India,” the pilots body wrote in the letter, a copy of which has been reviewed by Hindustan Times.
ICPA said that of the 20 Airbus A321 aircraft operated by Air India, only 12 are available for operation on a daily basis currently.
“40% of the Airbus A321 fleet is grounded at various stations for lack of spares. This aircraft is the workhorse of the domestic network operating on high-density routes and has the maximum seating capacity. Considering the high seating capacity, there is a significant loss of revenue happening on a daily basis. The Airbus A319 fleet situation is only slightly better. Of the 22 Airbus A319 aircraft in the fleet, 4 aircraft or 18% of the fleet is not available for operation,” ICPA has said.
The airline said aircraft grounding was part of a routine exercise.
“Air India accords top-most priority to safety of the aircraft in its fleet. It is a common practice for every airline to ground some of its aircraft for routine maintenance and checks periodically by its engineering department so that the aircraft are fit to fly in conformity to laid down standards. Our aircraft also go for these checks without affecting our flight schedule and causing inconvenience to our esteemed passengers,” said a spokesperson for Air India.
Of the 15 Boeing 777-300 aircraft, 5 aircraft are idling in the hangars. Of the 26 Boeing 787 aircrafts, 2 are grounded, according to the ICPA.
Air India has been reporting net losses since fiscal year 2007-08, the year in which it was merged with Indian Airlines. Chairman and MD Kharola said in Air India’s annual report for 2016-17 that for the second consecutive year, the airline had posted an operating profit—Rs 298 crore in 2016-17 and Rs 105 crore in the year before. This year, an attempt to privatize the airline was called off by the government.
“The government has brought Air India to its knees;, what is happening is unfortunate, situation is worsening every day,” said Mark D Martin, founder and CEO of Martin Consulting, an aviation consulting firm.

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