Loss-making Air India has grounded as many as 19 planes due to lack of spare parts, leading to flight cancellations and a huge loss of revenue to the airline on a daily basis, the national carrier's pilots' union has alleged.
Taking the top management head-on, the pilots have questioned as to why the aircraft were being allowed to remain on the ground for so long as this is having a significant impact on the bottom-line of the national carrier.
The Indian Commercial Pilots Association (ICPA) said, in a letter to Air India CMD Pradeep Singh Kharola, that almost 23 per cent of the Air India fleet is grounded for lack of spares.
To put this into perspective, aircrafts worth approximately USD 3.6 billion or approximately Rs 25,000 crore, are lying idle in the hangars, the ICPA alleged.
While as many as eight Airbus A321 aircraft, of the total 20 such planes operated by Air India, are out of operations at various stations for lack of spares, four A319s are also on ground for one reason or the other, the union said.
The Airbus A319 fleet situation is only slightly better. Of the 22 Airbus A319 aircraft in the fleet, four aircraft or 18 per cent of the fleet is not available for operations.
The A319 aircraft is the workhorse of the domestic network operating on high-density routes and has the maximum seating capacity, the ICPA said, adding that due to the grounding of these planes there is a significant revenue loss on a daily basis.
The Airbus A320 fleet fares better but only because it currently consists of a significant number of newly acquired Neo planes, it said.
Of the Boeing 777 fleet, five aircraft are in the hangar while two Boeing 787 Dreamliners, of the 26 in the fleet, are also on ground, the ICPA said.
Additionally, a significant number of flights are getting cancelled or rescheduled on a daily basis. There are also aircraft fleet swaps which result in last minute change of inventory resulting in non-optimal revenue management and utilisation, the ICPA further stated in the letter.
The pilots have further questioned the management on whether it is not being able to prioritise its expenditure. They are also of view that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation should have questioned the management on the issue. However, sources disclose that DGCA has completed an audit of Air India.
The financial audit of airline was necessitated as it has been defaulting on salary payments to its employees, besides grounding a number of aircraft due to payment issues with vendors, a senior official said. But the regulator also appears to be taking into consideration that Air India is a governmentowned airline.
The government has during the latest session of Parliament's obtained approval for infusing Rs 980 crore equity in the debt-ridden national carrier. The move to bring fresh equity into Air India comes at a time when a few banks and jet-leasing firms have issued the "first reminder" to clear outstanding dues.
Meanwhile, Air India has sought an equity infusion of Rs 2,121 crore from the government as part of an ongoing bailout package. This support was contingent on the airline achieving certain milestones in the turnaround plan chalked out by the government.