Air India has decided to sell five out of its eight Boeing 777-200LR aircraft owing to the global recession which has led to a change in market dynamics, as well as a steep increase in fuel prices and poor yields on non-stop routes, parliament was informed today.
"Air India is planning to sell its B777-200LR (long range) aircraft. Air India had inducted eight such aircraft between 2007 and 2010," minister of state for civil aviation, K C Venugopal said in a written reply tabled in a dysfunctional Lok Sabha.
No MP was paying attention, of course, since parliament's functioning has been disrupted for the past three weeks by uncouth opposition protests, which has led to both houses being adjourned prematurely this morning till the next session in the monsoon.
Venugopal said in his reply that the planes were inducted to cater for ultra-long range non-stop services between India and the US.
"Due to a steep increase in fuel prices, some of the ultra-long operations like Bengaluru to San Francisco never commenced. Further, the market dynamics changed significantly due to the global recession.
"It was found that the yield from non-stop routes of B777-200LR was poor," the minister said, adding that it was therefore decided to sell five of these aircraft to reduce the loan burden.
Venugopal said average age of the Air India fleet is 7.8 years and the airline has not sold any aircraft in its fleet before their average life-span.
Replying to another question, he said five members of Air India cabin crew were engaged in a fight at a hotel in Chicago in January and following an enquiry they were "de-rostered from flying and were placed under suspension for two months. They were released for flight duty after corrective training and counselling from 1 April."
In reply to another question, Venugopal said the country was facing a shortage of 1,200 air traffic controllers keeping in mind current and future requirements.
To reduce the shortage, he said, "Recruitment of 200 junior executives (ATC) has been completed in 2012 out of which 187 have joined. AAI board has approved recruitment of 400 JE (ATC) per year for next three years to the current and future requirements."
He said the Airports Authority of India (AAI) had conducted a study on long term manpower requirement through an international consultant.
"The report had been examined by a committee constituted by AAI Board. Its implementation requires approval of AAI Board and no specific time-frame can be given," he said.