Air India Will Lease 787s So They Can Expand US Service

Filed Under: Air India

The Financial Express is reporting that Air India’s board has approved a proposal for the airline to lease seven Boeing 787-9 aircraft. This would complement Air India’s existing longhaul fleet of three Boeing 777-200LRs, 12 Boeing 777-300ERs, and 23 787-8s (they’re expected to take delivery of four more 787-8s this year).


Apparently Air India wants to lease these planes for the purpose of expanding service to the US. Air India has already nicely increased their US service this year, as they added additional frequencies to San Francisco, and will also be launching flights to Washington Dulles as of July.

Apparently Air India is considering adding flights to Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, Vancouver, and Toronto. Air India’s chairman is quoted as saying the following:

The national carrier is looking to launch one more destination in the US this year in addition to Washington DC, which will commence operations from July, Lohani said. At present Los Angeles, Dallas and Houston are being explored and air services to one of them could start later this year, he said.

Air India is also mulling launching flights to either Vancouver or Toronto in Canada from New Delhi going forward, according to Lohani. Plans are also afoot to increase frequency to Australia and to look at routes in Africa by connecting Mumbai with Mauritius or Nairobi, he added.

As much as Air India has been horribly run (they were scrapping a new 777 for parts a few years back) and the joke of the industry, it does seem like they’re trying to turn around for the better. They’re strategically growing, and with a fuel efficient fleet and decent premium cabin product, it seems like they could do pretty well.

India is a huge market that’s underserved with nonstop flights from the US (though there are plenty of ways to get there on European and Gulf carriers through their respective hubs). With fuel efficient planes, there’s no reason Air India couldn’t make some routes work.

Unfortunately I suspect it’ll be quite a while before before this deal is finalized, and even longer before the planes join Air India’s fleet.

I’ll be curious to see if this comes to fruition. A Dallas, Houston, or Los Angeles to Delhi flight would be Air India’s longest, and would be among the longest flights in the world.

What do you make of Air India’s potential 787 acquisition? Do you think it will actually happen?

  1. From great circle mapper…
    Dallas to Delhi is 173mi longer than from Los Angeles.
    Houston to Delhi is 360mi longer than from Los Angeles.

  2. The would do really well with SFO BLR, assuming a fairly competitive product.

    Currently SFO DEL BLR is not as desirable as the other connections such as SFO DXB BLR, SFO HKG BLR, SFO FRA BLR, SFO LHR BLR. Avoiding a domestic segment on Air India and their inferior business class product makes all of the other options better.

  3. the acquisition WILL happen, but most likely only about half of those destinations mentioned would come true. everything except DFW is a Star Alliance partner hub, so they’re relatively safe bets. DFW is the curious case of having a huge Indian diaspora, well capacity flooding from ME3, and painfully low amount of FFs that are loyal to UA/Star to begin with.

  4. It seems to me, they should serve IAD daily before adding new destinations … it’s incredibly frustrating to try and be loyal to an airline without a daily frequency unless you’re talking about something like a 1x weekly to a leisure destination…

  5. Hey Lucky have you ever flown their J product? I flew BOM-GOI and it was not the best even for that short a sector? They also dont have a premium Y product. They have tried Toronto with everything from a 747-200 to most recently 77W so not hopeful two carriers on this route will work.

  6. @ Skedguy — I haven’t. Their 787 business actually looks decent, though. At least it’s fully flat and doesn’t have middle seats.

  7. Lucky, you are right, their 787 J is actually a pretty decent product! I was in J on a 787 approx 2 years ago on the flight to Shanghai PVG and it was great! (food was yum!) but not sure how well maintained the seat is overall.
    787 in J to US direct with the usually good food they have will make for a good deal. the Y seats aren’t as comfortable as their 777 Y which are one of the most generous in pitch and width. they still do 3-3-3 last i flew them a year ago.

  8. Boeing did offer to convert their existing 787-8 to -9 and -10, they refused.., they also sold five 777-200LR to Etihad at I believe below market value. Vested interests….

  9. Yes! I would love it so much if they came to LAX! I don’t live in LA, I live in Vancouver, but AC already operates a flight from YVR to DEL, so I would like to try connecting in LAX (maybe with a short stopover :)), as I love LA so much!!!

  10. Dallas is a huge market as there is a large Indian community. I am not sure about LA or IAH.

  11. One of the amazing part about Air India is that they buy amazing aircraft but when it comes to maintenance of any of the aircraft, it is when they run flying shudder. They just don’t want to invest in them.

    Just see quality of menu offered on Air India. Their food stock is limited on flight. They are one of the least customer friendly company when flying customers. Although they are part of Star Alliance, their FF is complete whack. Thier points are completely devalued and their website design is a school of what not create.

  12. I’ve been a big advocate of AI starting new routes from a third Indian city. One factor that might jeopardize their competitiveness if they expand more to US – My best friend works for AI and I was informed that in India only two airports currently have security clearance to operate nonstops to US ie Delhi and Mumbai. That means if people from the other cities have to choose a 2 leg journey, they’ll almost always prefer doing that on an ME3 carrier. That would be a big lost opportunity and just offer the political pseudo elites based in Delhi the options to fly more places from home for free.

  13. There is a very large Indian community here in the LA/OC area, that’s bigger than the Dallas metro region. About 130,000 and growing quickly. Plus decent film industry and tech/app travel.

  14. “Air India is also mulling launching flights to either Vancouver or Toronto in Canada from New Delhi going forward, according to Lohani.”

    AC already does YYZ-DEL and YVR-DEL. I don’t see why AI would launch the same routes as another *A carrier that offers a better soft and hard product. I guess that depends on the loads but I doubt there is demand on these routes for more than one 789 daily.

  15. As India is probably the biggest market where it makes sense to use a ME3 connection from the USA, couple direct flights with an electronics ban and this could work well for AI.

  16. @Pavan Houston’s Indian community is roughly the same size as Dallas, so there’s certainly no shortage of potential demand. The issue with DFW as someone else pointed out is twofold:

    1) There is little Star Alliance loyalty since it is an AA fortress. Those who don’t fly AA tend to gravitate to DL/SkyTeam since DL used to have a sizeable hub at DFW until about 2005. AI would have to rely almost exclusively on O/D I would think.
    2) Competition from ME3 is brutal, particularly with the option to earn AAdvantage EQM/EQD with QR.

    I would think IAH is a safer bet since there’s a natural Star Alliance tie-up to draw connecting passengers. Or maybe they’ll do something like an add-on flight between IAH and DFW that’s only available to passengers going all the way to India. As an aside, if AI can move relatively quickly, they might be on to something here. They can position themselves as an alternative for people, especially business travelers, heading to India that might otherwise use the ME3, since the electronics ban doesn’t apply to direct flights to/from India.

  17. AI ordered 40 – read that again 40, 787s from Boeing for $10 bn
    Got paid $1bn as delivery was late
    Could not fly them as their pilots were not trained to fly the planes
    Sold them to Etihad for $2-3 bn
    Loss in 1 yr as a result $7bn
    I am sure they are growing responsibly again
    real sure.

    Sorry it was 5 x 777LRs for $330M

    And then this a 12 + 9 sale of dreamliners and lease back

    According to the airline, the shortcomings are no rights for termination of lease contract,

    if you go far enough back, I am sure you will find more
    I remember Lucky posting about the first plane sitting for a couple of weeks after arrival before local training flights!

  19. Air India is in a shambles. The airline has a huge debt of ₹46000 crores (roughly US$ 7.2 billion). There have been several proposals of privatisation of the airline in the past but the government never took interest. Rather the government offered them huge loans as bailout packages. The airline has been simply sucking the hard earned taxpayer’s money but never thought of improving its service. The amount of money Air India has wasted could have been used for infrastructure developments across the country. The airline livery looks just like flying a plane from the 1970s. The interiors of the planes look so shabby, one doesn’t even feel like stepping in. In fact, about a month back an AI flight to Chicago had reported the lavatories getting chocked. Passengers flying AI always face some or the other kind of trouble. At a time when it needs to financially restructure itself, the airline thinks launching new routes will help out. Rather it should plan to sell a portion of its stake to private companies/investors. Besides it should also improve its inflight services, get its seats and age old IFEs changed with new ones. And yes addressing to the Indian diasporas in Texas and California, you have way better options i.e. you can fly with Air Canada via YYZ & YVR, connect via European hubs with Lufthansa/KLM/Virgin Atlantic, or even chose Far East with Japan Airlines, ANA, Asiana Airlines, Korean Air or Cathay Pacific, but don’t go for Air India. Trust me your flying experience will be ruined.

  20. Interesting that they mention Mauritius MRU as a potential destination given that they already have a code-share agreement with MK.

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