AI has huge potential; strong action taken against drinking incidents: CEO Wilson

AI has huge potential; strong action taken against drinking incidents: CEO Wilson

Air India, which is set to buy 470 planes for about USD 70 billion, has enormous potential and efforts are on to make the group a significant international player in the aviation space, according to the airlines chief Campbell Wilson.

Against the backdrop of incidents of unruly passenger behaviour onboard flights and the airline’s decision to amend its alcohol serving policy, Wilson said strong action is being taken against such instances of intoxication.

Alcohol policy

“We straightened (alcohol policy) a bit to recognise the signs of intoxication… What has changed in a large respect is the practice of reporting and acting on intoxication… almost everyday there is an incident and usually it is a case of someone drinking their own liquor before getting onboard the aircraft, or smuggling their own duty free liquor onto the aircraft and consuming it. This is being reported more often and we are taking strong action when it happens,” the Air India CEO and MD said during a virtual media interaction on Monday.

He pointed out that the issue of intoxication is something that has been noted internationally and has been on the rise since Covid. It is something that IATA (International Air Transport Association) has called out, he added. Last month, in a  span of less than a week, aviation regulator DGCA had penalised Tata Group-owned Air India twice related to incidents of unruly passenger behaviour.

Also read: Air India aircraft deal: Easy part done, task is to boost service, manage fleet

IATA is a global grouping of airlines and Air India is also a member.

On February 14, Air India announced placing an order for 470 planes, including 70 wide-body aircraft.

Funding the purchase

About funding for the purchase of 470 aircraft, Wilson said it would be a combination of many things, including cash flow and financing by shareholder equity.

“We will be exploring other opportunities such as sale and lease back of aircraft. It suffices to say that there are a number of funding sources and likely to be a combination of various sources,” he added.

Out of 470 planes, 250 are from Airbus and 220 from Boeing. Among them, 70 are wide-body aircraft. All six wide-body A350s will join the fleet this year, Wilson said.

When asked about the list price of the aircraft ordered, Wilson said that if the numbers published on the manufacturers websites are taken, it will be around USD 70 billion.

“We dont have a timeline… will evaluate the market,” Wilson said with respect to exercising the option on purchasing another 370 planes.

Huge opportunity

While noting that the opportunity for Air India as well as India are really quite unprecedented, he said the country has very attractive economic growth, significant population, attractive demographics and a geography that is suited for international aviation connectivity.

“India is perfectly placed to capture changes in the supply chain infrastructure. Also, there is a large and affluent diaspora that is very much looking forward to getting connectivity to the home market,” he added.

Also read: Air India’s mega aircraft order could change India’s aviation dynamics

“We see Air India has enormous potential and we see Air India being able to provide huge opportunities for professionals to realise their ambitions,” he said.

Retaining the ‘Maharaja’

To another question, the Air India chief said that the Maharaja brand is something that it would like to retain. “… (Maharaja is) something that we want to be part of the future of Air India… It is very well loved… It will be part of our future”.

In reply to another query, Wilson said that around 1,500 people took VRS in the offer made last year and it was about 43 per cent of those who were eligible to do so.

(With agency inputs)

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