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"Air India to expand global network with Dreamliners"

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LONDON (PTI): Air India plans to expand its global network using the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, which will emerge as the "game changer" for the national carrier, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has said.

"We are expanding our network with Dreamliners. The B787s will be game changer for Air india," Singh told PTI on Sunday.

"People's response is very positive. The Dreamliners are very fuel efficient, have new technology and passenger friendly. They would improve our performance," the minister said as the state-of-the-art aircraft took to the skies again last month after being grounded since January 17 after reporting several battery fire incidents.

Air India has re-launched commercial flight of the Dreamliner between Delhi and London on May 22 and is planning to begin full-scale global operations, with flights from Delhi to Dubai, Paris and Frankfurt by the end of this month, said Air India DGM (Corporate Communication) G Prasada Rao.

Air India will also connect Delhi with Birmingham and Sydney-Melbourne from August, Rome and Milan from October and Moscow from early next year with its Boeing 787s.

In the domestic sector, commercial flights using Dreamliners have already being launched from Delhi to Kolkata, Bangalore and Chennai, Rao said, adding that the airline has received a huge response from its guests.

Out of the six Boeing 787 planes with Air India, two have been already modified following the battery fire incidents, Rao said. The remaining four Dreamliners would become operational by this month.

Another eight of these aircraft would be delivered by Boeing by December, taking the total to 14. The airline has ordered a total of 27 Dreamliners.

The Air India flight that reached here on Sunday was welcomed with a water salute, celebrating 65 years of service to London by the national carrier of India.

The Boeing 787s were grounded worldwide since January 17 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 almost identical reason in Japan.

The Air India has not disclosed the amount of compensation the US aircraft manufacturer would give to the national carrier for to the grounding, but said the airline has set up an internal committee to talk to Boeing on the issue.

Boeing's Senior Vice President Dinesh Keskar had said that the refitting of new batteries in each of the 50 B-787s which were grounded worldwide has given them confidence.

"We are confident that the 787 is safe and we stand behind its overall integrity," Keskar said.

Air India also plans to operate Dreamliners on Delhi-Hong Kong-Seoul and Delhi-Hong Kong-Osaka routes, which have four and three flights per week respectively, from June 15.

Currently these routes are being served by Boeing 777-200 Long Range (B777-200-LR).

"At present these routes are loss-making but with the deployment of Dreamliner 787, they are expected to turn profitable because of the seat configuration," an Air India official said.

A Dreamliner has 256 seats, including 18 in the business class, as against 235 seats in a B777-200-LR.


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