AI's Dreamliners to fly again on Wednesday; turnaround 'on track'

National carrier Air India says it will resume domestic operations of the grounded Dreamliners planes from Wednesday and global flights from 22 May.

"The first commercial flight of the Dreamliner will start tomorrow from Delhi to Kolkata. Out of six of these Boeing 787 planes, two have been already modified following the battery fire incidents," civil aviation minister Ajit Singh told reporters in New Delhi (See: Nightmare for Boeing as Dreamliners grounded).

He said the first international flight of the Dreamliner would be launched on 22 May. The state-run airline would begin full-scale global operations with these planes from Delhi to Birmingham and Sydney-Melbourne from August, Rome and Milan from October and Moscow from early next year.

Air India also plans to take delivery of eight more of the fuel-efficient planes by December, Singh said, taking the total to 14. The airline has ordered a total of 27 Dreamliners.

The B-787s have remained grounded since 17 January after a fire in the lithium-ion batteries of a parked plane in Boston and a case of forced landing of another B-787 for the same reason in Japan (See: JAL, ANA ground Dreamliners following fresh incident).

The minister refused to divulge the amount of compensation the US aircraft manufacturer would give to Air India but said the airline has set up an internal committee to talk to Boeing on the issue.

Referring to financial projections for 2013-14, Singh said Air India's total revenue was expected to jump 20 per cent from Rs16,130 crore to Rs19,393 crore with its net loss declining from Rs 5,198 crore to Rs 3,989 crore.

Maintaining that the loss-making national carrier's performance has been improving consistently, he said its total revenue in 2012-13 improved by almost 10 per cent over the previous year -- from Rs14,714 crore to Rs16,130 crore.

"This is despite the strike by the pilots," he said, adding that the airline has improved its performance and was consistently meeting "most of the landmarks laid out in its turnaround plan".

While monetisation of its assets in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Coimbatore would generate additional funds Rs1,000 crore, oil companies are expected to provide concessions of Rs500 crore to Air India.

The airline would generate additional revenue of over Rs500 crore through slashing of staff costs, savings from interest on loans and working capital and booking agency commissions.

Regarding salaries that have been unpaid for months, he said salaries have been paid till March this year to all employees, while the allowances to employees in the 'licence' catergory - pilots, engineers and cabin crew - have been disbursed till January. A voluntary retirement scheme is also on the anvil.