The pressure of deliveries in India’s fast-expanding aviation market is beginning to tell on aircraft makers.
Three long-haul planes to be supplied to Air-India by Seattle-based aircraft supplier Boeing will be delayed by at least a month, said a senior executive at the Mumbai-based airline.
The delay will, in turn, put on hold the airline’s plans for direct flights to Houston, Johannesburg and Mauritius from Mumbai and New Delhi.
Coming on the heels of its already-postponed plans for direct flights to New York from February due to a shortage of planes, this could, market experts say, result in the airline losing ground.
The Boeing 777-200 LR (longer-range) planes, which were to fly in and be pressed into service immediately in April, will now arrive in May, said S. Venkat, executive director of finance and spokesman of Air-India.
Part of the 68 planes Boeing is to deliver to Air-India by 2011, the delay of the three planes is due to bottlenecks at Italian aircraft seat supplier Avio International, Venkat added.
Boeing’s senior vice-president (sales) Dinesh Keskar, however, said the planes could make the April schedule. “The first of the three planes could arrive April-end or early May,” Keskar said in a phone interview, adding that the other two planes would follow soon.
Boeing has delivered five jets so far to Air-India.
Earlier this month, International Air Transport Association (IATA), a grouping of global airlines, warned of aircraft supply delays this year. “The large number of deliveries set for Asia is a major challenge. There is a strong possibility that some (though still a relatively small number) of the current orders planned for these routes will need to be deferred or even cancelled,” IATA senior economist Mark Smyth wrote in an advisory note to association members.
Of the 340 aircraft to be delivered to buyers in Asia, 74, including 31 from Boeing and the rest from Airbus, are for India. Asia as a region will lead Europe, which is buying 334 planes, and North America (256) in 2007.
Air-India’s much-awaited direct flight to Houston will cut down at least seven hours travelling time from Mumbai to the Texan air hub. Currently, the airline ferries its passengers from Mumbai to Paris, from where they take an Air France flight to Houston. The flight takes as much as 23 hours.
The new Boeing planes were to connect Houston with India thrice a week, carrying over 300 passengers in a standard three-class seating, moving up to a daily flight schedule gradually. They were also planned to be pressed into routes such as Johannesburg andMauritius.
The delay in delivery of the Boeing jets will set back Air-India by “millions” (of rupees), Sanjeev Bhasin, an assistant vice-president at online ticket retailer Makemytrip.com, said.
“International carriers are locking these routes fast,” Bhasin said. “With Delta and others already tapping this lucrative route, I don’t see how Air-India will capture thatmarket.”