An Air India Airlines Boeing 787 dreamliner takes part in a flying display during the 50th Paris Air Show at the Le Bourget airport near Paris, June 14, 2013. | File Reuters
NEW DELHI: Post flight data firm FlightStats’s report that ranked India’s state-run carrier Air India as the world’s third worst airline, Air India CMD, Ashwani Lohani on Wednesday said the carrier has legacy issues unlike other airlines.
“No other airlines has had a merger – of Air India (International) with Indian Airlines (domestic) which happened in 2006 — like ours. There are problems and it continues. All these takes time to get it sorted,” he said, adding that the carrier has nine different types of aircraft, that makes it operations tougher, unlike most other carrier.
Unperturbed by criticism over its poor On-Time Performance (measure of airline’s punctuality in operations related to arrival and departure), Lohani said the airline is committed towards improving it’s OTP and that there are other things like high quality service that the airline would focus on.
Lohani said Air India has improved on OTP in past one year which is between 75 per cent to 78 per cent which is good enough for a carrier which operates in remotest corners of the country with over nine different type of aircraft.
He pointed out that OTP cannot be attained by drawing a magic wand in the air.
Lohani however admitted that it would miss its yearly operating profit target of Rs 1,086 crore, but was hopeful that the airline would become fully profitable by 2022.
The airline with total debt of Rs 51,000 crore has been able to reduce its losses by Rs 5,000 crore during the last financial year as part of its turnaround plan. The total debt to AI is now Rs 46,000 crore.
Lohani also said that Air India will focus on regional connectivity as is mandated by the government of being a state-owned carrier.
It will set up a simulator unit in the national capital by this year- end for training pilots for its ATR aircraft – a 40 to 70 seater small size plane – largely meant to be deployed for short haul operations aimed at expanding regional connectivity services connecting unserved and underserved airports.
Lohani on Wednesday said that the airline is in the process of recruiting at least 200 more pilots for its ATR operations. “We will be adding 20 more ATR planes by this year end for which we would recruit 200 pilots. Right now we have eight ATR which are flown by 70 of our pilots,” he said.
The development is a clear indication that the national carrier would share the major burden of Narendra Modi’s government’s ambitious Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) to connect unserved and underserved airports, is yet to take –off.
Currently, Air India’s regional arm, Alliance Air has eight ATRs in its fleet and 70 pilots who fly these small planes for short haul operations.
The need for setting up simulators for the ATRs by Air India also comes in the wake of Indian carriers India’s civil aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on January 4 this month issuing a Civil Aviation Requirement (CAR) — a set of rules that govern the functioning of the Indian civil aviation sector in this regard.