Air India re-floats tender for dry lease of 14 Airbus A-320s

Loss-making national carrier Air India, seeking to improve revenue flow, has decided to dry-lease 14 of its Airbus A-320 aircraft for up to six years in a phased manner from the current financial year.

The state-owned carrier on Thursday re-issued a tender for leasing these planes which should not be more than six years old. The tender document said the quotations should be sent by 29 May when the technical bids would be opened.

"The company will also invite dry-lease bid for new aircraft. The new bid number should also be around 14 A320 aircraft," a senior official with the state-run carrier told IANS.

"Air India additionally will shortly invite tender for dry lease of up to 14 new A320 aircraft with sharklets. Air India will require a total number of 14 A320 Aircraft on dry lease (old aircraft as per the current tender and new aircraft as per the tender to be floated)," the current tender document said.

Air India was one of the launch operators of A320 aircraft and purchased 31 aircraft during 1989-1993. Again, during 2006-2010, AI purchased 43 A320 family aircraft. Last October, the airline sold five of its eight Boeing 777-200 aircraft to Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways.

The airline is said to be planning to sell the remaining three fuel-guzzling Boeing 777-200 aircraft soon. These airplanes carry an all-economy configuration with 188 seats.

The tender was issued again as the airline was not able to get the requisite number of new aircraft for delivery next year, Air India officials said.

As per the tender, the selected lessors should be able to supply on dry-lease up to three of these planes in 2014-15, up to five till 2015-16 and six till 2016-17.

The erstwhile Indian Airlines was one of the launch operators of the A-320 aircraft and had purchased 31 of them between 1989 and 1993. Again between 2006 and 2010, the airline bought 43 A-320 family aircraft that includes A-319s and A-321s.

It was also reconfiguring its A-321 aircraft to reduce Business Class seats from 20 to 12 and increasing economy seating, the officials said, adding that four A-320s and six A-321s have already been reconfigured.

Expecting deliveries of five more Dreamliners between May and November, the national carrier is raising a bridge loan of $500 million to finance the purchase of four of these aircraft and use them to launch flights to new destinations like Moscow, Rome and Milan.

Air India was awaiting certain approvals for the launch of these flights planned for later this year.

The national carrier, which has already inducted 13 Boeing 787 Dreamliners, expects deliveries of two more such planes in May, while another three of the total 27 ordered are slated to be delivered by the US manufacturer Boeing in June, August and November.