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by TopBusinessView

We are in talks with aircraft makers to buy planes: Air India CFO

Air India is in discussions with aircraft manufacturers for acquiring planes as the Tata group-owned airline plans to expand its fleet by three times compared to the current size, a senior executive said on Friday. Air India Chief Financial Officer Vinod Hejmadi also said the airline is currently in the “taxiing phase” and it will take two years before it takes off, consolidates and enters the growth mode.

Since taking over Air India in January this year, Tatas have unveiled a comprehensive transformation plan for reviving the loss-making airline. The plan focuses on five factors — industry leadership, robust operations, commercial efficiency, industry best-talent and exceptional customer experience.

“In the Air India transformation journey, we are looking for, in the next five years, 30 per cent market share and we are planning to grow our aircraft fleet three times of what we currently have… We are looking forward to ensuring that we add on capacity for growth (and) discussions (with aircraft manufacturers) are going on to acquire fleet,” Hejmadi said.

At the Aviation Insurance Symposium 2022 hosted by Global Insurance Brokers Pvt Ltd here, he said in the past, it was a matter of survival for the airline but after the takeover by the Tata group, it is now looking towards a growth trajectory.

“We are at the moment looking at the taxiing phase, which is to fix the basics, to fix what was wrong in Air India and after six months of that, we have to look for the take off. And that will be about two years’ journey when we take off, consolidate and go into the growth mode,” he added.

To achieve all these, Hejmadi said the airline is investing heavily in technology, digitisation and manpower.

The airline will be inducting five wide-body Boeing and 25 Airbus narrow-body planes over the next 15 months. The aircraft being leased are 21 Airbus A320 neos, four Airbus A321 neos and five Boeing B777-200LRs, according to a release issued by the airline on September 15.

SIA’s quantum of stake in the combined entity will also be linked to other arrangements like airline management (currently Vistara draws management expertise from SIA; its CEO has always been from SIA) ; board seats (SIA has one seat on Vistara board); branding (Vistara carries the tag “A Tata SIA JV”); service offerings etc.

Air India’s narrow-body fleet stands at 70 aircraft. Out of them, 54 are in service and the remaining 16 aircraft will progressively return to service by early 2023. The wide-body fleet stands at 43 aircraft, of which 33 are operational. The rest will return to service by early 2023, as per the release. Tata group has started an exercise to evaluate options to consolidate AirAsia India and Vistara under Air India to bring operational synergies.

Tata group owns 51 per cent stake in Vistara and is also the owner of Air India and Air India Express. The group also has 83.67 per cent shareholding in domestic carrier AirAsia India.

Singapore Airlines had on Thursday said it was in “confidential discussions” with Tata group to explore possible merger of Vistara and Air India.

Meanwhile, Hejmadi on Friday said Air India welcomes competition whether it is a duopoly or more than two airlines in the domestic aviation space as this will ensure that everyone is on their toes.

“And we have to be on our toes and the passenger who is the biggest stakeholder will benefit from it,” he added.

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