“Long-Haul Flights, Business Fliers”: Air India CEO To NDTV On New Bearing
The full breadth of Air India’s turnaround will be felt by the end of next year, chief executive Campbell Wilson has told NDTV in an exclusive interview, also declaring that the flag carrier’s new focus will be on long-haul and business fliers in addition to leisure passengers.
“We are impatient for change… what many people don’t realise is that it takes about 18 months after you commit the money, and decide what product you want to go through the regulatory and engineering and manufacturing process for new seats. As well as installation on new aircraft. So we are going literally as fast as it’s possible to go. That’s the medium term,” he said.
“Then, clearly, the long term is the new fleet order. These aircraft will come with the latest generation seats and entertainment. So, by the end of 2024, it’s quite clear that the vast majority of services that people will experience from us on board the aircraft will be absolutely brand new,” he said.
However, Air India plans to unveil a revamped business and economy class experience sooner with six A-350-900s that it start getting this year.
It’s been confirmed by the @airindiain (AI) CEO that the 6 ex- Aeroflot (SU) #A350-900 will arrive configured in the SU config i.e.,
28 Business (J);
24 Premium Economy; and
264 Economy seats.
Going by these photos, AI has a total winner on its hands. Bravo !#AvGeek #PaxEx pic.twitter.com/joZTqDDlOz
— VT-VLO (@Vinamralongani) February 27, 2023
The 52-year-old chief executive, who took over the Tata Group airline in June after the conglomerate bought it back from the Indian government last year, said Air India will now focus on long-haul flights and passengers flying for business.
“The untapped potential of Air India, but also Indian aviation, for non-stop services pretty much anywhere in the world is unparalleled. We plan to use the new aircraft we are leasing and purchasing for the long-haul market,” Mr Wilson told NDTV.
“North America is clearly a very attractive market. There’s a huge business opportunity, there’s a huge diaspora. We have already mounted new services from Delhi, we have restored some services from Mumbai, and Bangalore, and it will continue to be a significant focus,” he said.
“In Europe, we have recommenced services into Copenhagen, Vienna… strengthening London, Heathrow,” the CEO said.
“Hitherto Air India was more of a leisure airline, 0r visiting friends and relatives airline. As India rises in the economic stakes as well as a key node in international business, we will carry more and more business travellers, so the non-stop service into all the key business centres is going to be key,” Mr Wilson said.
“Los Angeles has been constrained by aircraft range. That is not going to be the constraint any more. Other destinations on the West Coast, Midwest. Chicago. Washington DC. New York, we’ve put a lot of capacity recently. Also let’s not forget Canada – Toronto, Vancouver… Australia, New Zealand,” he said.
The announcements come after Air India unveiled deals earlier this month for a record 470 jets from Airbus and Boeing, accelerating the revival of its reputation as a world-class airline and shedding its image as a tardy, run-down operation with an ageing fleet and poor service.
The provisional deals include 220 planes from Boeing and 250 from Airbus and eclipse previous records for a single airline as Air India vies with domestic giant IndiGo to serve what will soon be the world’s largest population.