Air India will introduce premium economy class on select long-haul international flights in December, its Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer Campbell Wilson said. The Tata Group-owned airline is also looking at upgrading its product offerings in the short term. Besides this, the airline has a flight plan to expand its market share as well as the global network.
Addressing an event organized by JRD Tata Memorial Trust, Wilson also said both India and Air India are at the cusp of opportunities to become major players in world aviation within the next decade.
The airline has said that in the next five years, under its strategy plan Vihaan, the Maharaja will grow its fleet, expand its global network and hire talent to make this ambition a reality.
“The short-term actions have been to replace carpets, curtains, seat cushions and covers. To fix defective seats and inflight entertainment systems as fast as supply chains will allow. And where parts are no longer available in the market, to work with the likes of Tata Technologies to design and manufacture parts ourselves.
The airline’s chief said that it has restored nearly 20 aircraft that had been grounded for years due to lack of parts and money. Leaving aside cabin interiors, this has required procuring over 30,000 parts that had been cannibalised over the years to keep other aircraft flying, he added.
Along with restoring long-grounded aircraft, Wilson said that the airline has finalised leases for 30 additional aircraft being delivered over the next 12 months, starting next week, with more in the final stages of negotiation with OEMs.
“Beyond these short-term additions, we are in deep discussion with Boeing, Airbus and engine manufacturers for a historic order of the latest-generation aircraft that will power Air India’s medium and long-term growth. At the risk of gross understatement, the investment will be substantial,” he said.
Speaking about market share, Wilson said that the airline will increase it to at least 30 per cent in domestic and international routes. On international routes, he said the airline has already added flights to Vancouver, Sydney and Melbourne.
“We now operate non-stop to London from seven Indian cities,” he said, and added that from Mumbai, the airline will be adding new non-stop service to San Francisco, New York and Newark starting in a few weeks.
On talent front he said, Air India is aggressively inducting to fill the gaps left by more than 15 years in which Air India barely recruited. “Because of that freeze, there are effectively two generations missing in our talent pipeline, and in some areas where technical change has been significant, our capability was entirely lacking.