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AI to take more aircraft on dry lease

By S. Anil Radhakrishnan

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, JAN. 25. Air India has decided to take on dry lease more planes to provide services wherever there is a market, especially to the west coast of the United States, in the coming months. The international carrier will also recruit pilots, on a quarterly basis, and cabin crew on a massive scale, to operate the new flights.

"Two Boeing 747s being taken on dry lease will join the fleet soon and we plan to introduce them to the west coast of the U.S., especially Los Angeles and San Francisco," the Chairman and Managing Director of Air India, V. Thulasidas, told The Hindu.

AI has plans to introduce flights to Canada and London this year and increase flight frequencies to Chicago and Shanghai. The A-310 aircraft being taken on dry lease will be used in the Nairobi and Lagos sectors this summer.

Mr. Thulasidas said a committee of officials had been entrusted with the task of carrying out a detailed analysis of the sectors having potential.

The proposed Rs. 10,000-crore fleet acquisition plan for 10 long-range and 18 short-range aircraft is still awaiting the Union Government's approval. "Although AI does not need Government money to purchase aircraft to increase its fleet strength, we need the (Government's) approval since the national carrier is a public sector undertaking. We are sticking to the time schedule fixed in this regard and hope that the approval will come through."

To provide better services to the flyers and operating aircraft taken on dry lease, recruitment of cabin crew and pilots has already begun.

The first batch of 250-cabin crew and pilots recruited is undergoing training.

On the Naresh Chandra Committee's recommendations, he said the changes on the anvil, such as allowing more frequencies to foreign airlines to operate to the airports of the country and allowing private airlines to operate to nearby countries, would have a big impact on the airline and its future plans.

"AI cannot sit back on the PSU status and say that we are the only ones. We have to compete to survive. Competition is good for the airline and helps us to bring about improvement and to provide better and efficient services to the passengers.

The airline can compete with other international carriers only if it has adequate aircraft, and the focus will be to reform the airline to meet the challenges of new environment," he said.

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