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Air India begins ‘entry into service’ for Airbus A350; new CEO to take over next week

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NEW DELHI: The “wings of change” promised by Tata Group for Air India will soon start becoming visible with new aircraft and a professional domain-specific management. The airline is learnt to have started work on “entry into service” for the state-of-the-art Airbus A350 aircraft that may start joining the fleet early next year. And a veteran from Tata’s trusted airline partner Singapore Airlines (SIA), Campbell Wilson, will take over as MD-CEO on Monday — just days after his last day at SIA budget arm Scoot as CEO on June 15.
This shows the urgency AI’s new owners have shown in getting an aviation pro to run the Maharaja. To be sure the Tatas have not downplayed the legacy issues at AI and say a complete turnaround will take some time.
“Russian Aeroflot had ordered about a dozen A350s whose delivery was scheduled to begin now in a phased manner. This won’t happen now for obvious reasons (sanctions on Russia). Qatar Airways, which is in the midst of a spat with the European aircraft major, also had some A350s on order. Some of these birds are nearly ready for delivery and can be given to alternate customer/s. Talks are on between Tatas and Airbus,” say people in the know.
Tata Sons chairman N Chandrasekaran had visited Airbus headquarters in Toulouse recently. AI Comments were sought from Tatas, Airbus and AI on this issue a few days back and awaited till the time of story being filed.
Tata Sons senior VP Nipun Aggarwal, now AI accountable manager and chief commercial officer, is among the group brass currently looking after fleet requirements.
It is learnt that AI has begun the entry into service programme for the A350s that includes training selected pilots on this type. AI has been using Boeing wide body aircraft — the now phased out B747 jumbo jets, B787s (backbone of 7-8 hour flights to Europe, far east and Australia) and B777s used for tran-Atlantic and Pacific flights to North America. While AI (erstwhile Indian Airlines) uses Airbus A320 family of single aisles, AI Express has B737s in its fleet.
However, Boeing has been going through a rough patch for the past few years and has not even been able to deliver two B787 Dreamliners to Tata Group’s Vistara for many months now. Vistara currently has only 2 Dreamliners and its medium haul network expansion plans are hit due to delivery delays. To be sure Boeing is also in talks with Tatas for the widely orders.
Ageing fleet with shabby cabin interiors is among the biggest pain points for passengers of AI — the only Indian carrier that flies non-stop to North America and Australia and has maximum flights to Europe and the Far East (with Vistara currently the only other Indian carrier to these two places).
The A350 has the range to fly non-stop on India-North America routes. SIA uses this aircraft, known for its big windows, to operate currently world’s longest non-stop between Changi and New York.



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