Home >Companies >AI may sell 5 Boeing 777s valued at $1.4 bn

New Delhi: Air India Ltd may sell five long-range Boeing 777-200 aircraft, valued at $1.4 billion (around 7,700 crore) at current list prices, after it failed to lease the planes to other airlines.

Air India bought the aircraft as part of its $11 billion deal for 111 aircraft in 2006. It used the planes to fly to North America—New York, Chicago and Toronto among other cities—from India non-stop.

Several of those flights will be withdrawn.

“We plan to sell five and keep just three for New York flights," said an Air India official, who declined to be named. “Even if we can’t sell them it’s better to ground them as we will save more money by doing so. They are fuel guzzlers. We understand they are being flown mostly by rich Middle East barons these days."

Air India has been trying to lease the aircraft, which cost just over $291 million apiece, with little success even as losses on flying them continue unabated. The New York route alone made losses of more than $200 million for Air India annually.

Despite tendering twice for leasing the aircraft, the airline received almost no interest, said a second Air India official, who too declined to be named.

This official said a little-known Russian firm has expressed interest to lease the Boeing 777s, but whether that company had the wherewithal to lease such expensive planes was not clear.

Air India is not alone in pulling out the long-haul Boeing 777 -200 LR aircraft. American Airlines, which had been offering Chicago-Delhi non-stop flights on a Boeing 777-200 aircraft since 2005, stopped its only service to India earlier this year.

“The problem is that the 777 has perhaps too much capacity for what the demand has turned out to be in this global economy. The 777 as a large aeroplane is more expensive to operate than say the 767 ER, which can also fly to pretty much anywhere you want to go," said Steve Forte, a former Jet Airways chief executive.

Boeing rival Airbus’ A340 planes, which also can fly 16 hours or longer non-stop, too aren’t popular among airlines.

Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, which had two Airbus A340s to start a Bangalore-San Francisco service, sold them to Africa’s Arik Air without even flying a single commercial flight.

“I personally have never liked the A340 concept because of its four engines. More engines equal more things that can go wrong, equal more maintenance costs, equal more spare engines to keep on hand, equal more capital investment. Finally, most 777 are getting a bit old so I am not surprised there is little demand for them in the used market," Forte said.

Until a few years ago, aviation fuel was cheaper than a dollar a gallon, which allowed aircraft such as the 777s to enter the market but those days are gone forever, Forte said, adding that the Boeing 777-200 LRs were like Convairs 880/990, Comet and Concorde, which never were successful commercially.

“I do not know if Concorde ever made money with a capacity of 100 passengers, very high fuel burn and maintenance/operating costs. But it was a trend setter and a status symbol for both Air France and British Airways," he said.

Air India plans to add Dreamliners to its fleet of 100 operational aircraft and expand its international network. It has already dropped the idea of having a European hub, the first official said.

Subscribe to Mint Newsletters
* Enter a valid email
* Thank you for subscribing to our newsletter.

Never miss a story! Stay connected and informed with Mint. Download our App Now!!

Edit Profile
My ReadsRedeem a Gift CardLogout