Ashwani Lohani, Air India's former chairman and managing director, said the carrier's financial situation has not stabilised, despite logging an operating profit in its 2016 financial year. However, he expressed optimism that the airline will be on a stronger footing after being privatised.
Full-service competitors Jet Airways and Vistara have also detailed plans to add more aircraft, while SpiceJet has firmed an order for up to 50 Bombardier Q400s.
AIR INDIA STILL ON ROCKY GROUND FINANCIALLY
Lohani, who was replaced by Rajiv Bansal on 23 August, said in a televised interview that despite making an operating profit of Rs1.05 billion ($16 million) for the 2016 financial year and forecasting a higher profit for the current year, Air India's financial situation "has not stabilised at all".
He also assured employees that their jobs are secure, despite the airline's impending privatisation.
"Whoever runs Air India will require commercial staff, engineers, pilots and cabin crew. Based on our expansion rate, we are still understaffed."
Lohani has been appointed as chairman of the Indian Railway Board.
COMPANIES EYE AIR INDIA GROUND HANDLING UNIT
Indian travel and aviation services firm Bird Group and Livewel Aviation have expressed interest in acquiring Air India's ground handling unit as part of the carrier's planned privatisation.
Bird requested that New Delhi separately divest Air India's subsidiaries, including ground handler Air India Air Transport Services (AIATS), "in order to unlock maximum value" from the sale.
As for Livewel, its chief executive, Burzin Daver, said in a televised interview that he had written to the country's civil aviation ministry, expressing interest in acquiring the unit. He is also optimistic that his company will be selected, given its long "association… and lineage" with Air India and AIATS.
JET AIRWAYS LOOKS AT MORE NARROWBODIES
Jet Airways is in talks to acquire up to 75 narrowbodies in the fiscal year ending March 2018.
The company says the discussions are separate from its outstanding order for 75 Boeing 737 Max 8s, and are aimed at capturing the growth of the Indian domestic market. It expects to make a decision in the coming months.
VISTARA SPEEDS UP DELIVERIES IN INTERNATIONAL PUSH
Vistara has accelerated aircraft deliveries by three months, in a bid to launch international operations earlier.
It expects to receive its 20th aircraft by March 2018, and plans to lease two additional Airbus A320neos by June 2018. This will bring its fleet to 22 aircraft.
The relaxation of the "5/20 rule" in 2016, which previously permitted Indian carriers to fly internationally only after flying domestically for five years or having a fleet of 20 aircraft, had made it possible for Vistara to start international flights earlier.
SPICEJET PONDERS AIR INDIA INVESTMENT
Low-cost operator SpiceJet has been approached by the Indian government as a possible investor in Air India, and is evaluating that option.
While the airline's chairman and managing director, Ajay Singh, thinks that Air India needs to be overhauled in order to have a more efficient operation, he also believes that the Star Alliance member should continue to be the country's flag carrier and become a "global airline."
SpiceJet isn't the first low-cost operator to look at acquiring Air India. IndiGo has also expressed formal interest in buying Air India's international operations and its low-cost unit, Air India Express.
NOT YET TIME TO GO LONG-HAUL: SPICEJET CHIEF
Singh is also doubtful that SpiceJet will launch long-haul low-cost operations in the near term, citing the high ownership cost of new-generation widebodies as a key obstacle.
Both the Airbus A350 and Boeing 787 are suitable types to launch intercontinental services, but their price tags have thus far prevented the move.
Singh also pointed out that its 737 Max jets, which it has a large order for, could be the right vehicle to launch medium-haul services.
ENGINE ISSUES DELAY GOAIR'S A320NEOS
GoAir will take three fewer A320neos in the current financial year because of issues associated with the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engines.
It expects that the final fixes to its five in-service A320neos "will be implemented by end of 2018". The plan is to operate 34 A320s by 31 March 2018.
Both GoAir and IndiGo, have seen their PW1100G engines suffer from premature degradation of the combustor chamber lining, and premature wear of the number 3 bearing seal.
P&W TO RESOLVE INDIA PW1100G ISSUES BY YEAR-END
In August Pratt & Whitney said it is on track to introduce improvements to the PW1100G engines that power India's A320neos by the end of 2017.
The company says the "early distress" on the PW1100G engine combustor panels was primarily found in India, due to the country's "challenging operating environment", and that modifications were implemented in mid-2016.
It adds that its on-wing improvement package for the number 3 carbon seal has improved time on wing, but it is still "experiencing some removals as anticipated, due to pre-existing wear prior to the retrofit".
P&W has also increased spare engine deliveries to the A320neo operators, as well as overhauled engine returns with the improved design, which it believes "should help to stabilise the fleet".
Source: Cirium Dashboard