Monday, May 29, 2023

Onboard WiFi & brand new interiors on Air India planes soon

New Delhi: In the next two years Air India (AI) flyers can enjoy on-flight WiFi services sitting in redecorated wide-body aircraft.

The AI will by next year start offering onboard WiFi. The process will begin with the six new wide-body Airbus A350 which will join its fleet in the coming months, AI MD-CEO Campbell Wilson told TOI Monday.

Subsequently other wide-body planes — first new inductions and then the existing fleet — will get this facility, followed by some single-aisles too. Also the entire AI wide-body fleet will have brand new interiors in the next two years.

“We will induct 19 new wide-body aircraft by the end of next March. These new planes will get onboard WiFi first. From mid 2024 we will start sending our 40 existing wide-body (27 Boeing 787s and 13 B777s) for complete refurbishment. Their interiors will be scrapped and they will get everything brand new from seats to inflight entrainment (IFE) and onboard Wifi as part of our $400 million upgrade project. By mid 2025, all our twin aisles will have absolutely new cabin product,” Wilson said.

While 17 of the 19 twin aisles will be used for augmenting fleet, AI has recently started talks for indicting two more B777s so that it can retire two wide-bodies.

A majority of AI group’s full service single aisles will also get a complete makeover by next September. “We are going to induct 50 single aisles this fiscal. By September 2024, 75-80% of our full service single aisles will be brand new,” he said. The remaining 20-25% will be refurbished for being used by the low-cost arm, AI Express. This means in the next two years, AI full-service arm planes would have completely new interiors.

Meanwhile, AI has begun reinstating six of the 47 weekly non-stop flights to the United States that were temporarily suspended this March due to a shortage of B777 crew. “We are reinstating three of those flights this month and the remaining three next month. We are now hiring five and 10 times more pilots and cabin crew per month than last year. We are hiring 600 crew (550 cabin crew and 50 pilots) every month,” Wilson, who was selected managing director-chief executive officer by Tata Group last May, said.

29/05/2023 Saurabh Sinha/Times of India

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