Talking about the transformation plans on Monday, Air India CEO Campbell Wilson said that the airline will refurbish its entire wide body fleet in 2024, apart from inducting new aircraft starting this year.
Addressing a virtual conference on Monday, the airline CEO talked on a host of issues, including the Air India-Vistara merger and the matter surrounding the peeing incident and unruly passengers.
He informed that incidents of unruly behaviour by inebriated passengers are quite frequent, adding that the airline has now become strict and is reporting all such cases of unruly behaviour.
Wilson said that the airline has learnt lessons and it could have reacted better to the issues surrounding the unruly passenger peeing incident which occurred in November last year.
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The CEO said that the airline has realised the importance of reporting incidents. Stating that Air India is now investing more in technology, the CEO told the media that there are many instances where the airline's crew is at the receiving end when a drunk passenger misbehaves.
Under a $400-million cabin refurbishment programme for the existing wide body fleet, issues like seats, carpets and in-flight entertainment (IFE) systems will be changed. Premium class IFEs are now almost all functional and a massive long haul network expansion is on the cards, especially in North America and Europe.
Six Airbus A350s will join the AI fleet this year. Besides, five ex-Delta Boeing 777s have begun flying on North America routes.
Wilson said that Air India has enormous potential and efforts are on to make the group a significant international player.
He said that Air India's order for a record 470 aircraft from Airbus and Boeing will be worth nearly $70 billion. The airline plans to fund the order with a combination of many resources, including internal cash flow, shareholder equity and sale-and-leaseback of aircraft.
The new aircraft will start entering the fleet from the end of this year through the end of the decade, to both transform the fleet and power significant network and capacity expansion, Wilson said.
Talking about the integration with Vistara, he said that the process of integration of Vistara with Air India is underway and is now awaiting approval from the regulatory bodies.
Air India will let go of the Vistara brand after the merger, as the Air India brand is more popular globally.
Currently in the first phase, the Air India and Vistara merger will move to the second phase to get DGCA approval for merger following CCI nod. The CEO said that there are three steps to that process. One is competition clearance, the second is DGCA's regulatory aviation perspective and the third is the merger of the two companies.
Talking about the brand Maharaja, he said that Maharaja is one of the many strong assets that Air India would like to retain.
"The new image of Air India must reflect the image of New India to appeal to all," he said.
Air India has roped in London-based brand and design consultancy firm Futurebrands to remake Air India's brand as the airline is aiming to become an 'airline of choice across the world'.