Air India Boeing 777-237LR VT-ALF Jharkand at New Delhi IGI airport. Photo copyright Vedant Agarwal, all rights reserved. Used with permission.
Air India Boeing 777-237LR VT-ALF Jharkand at New Delhi IGI airport. Photo copyright Vedant Agarwal.

Air India puts last three Boeing 777-200LRs up for sale

After selling off five of its Boeing 777-237LRs to Abu Dhabi based Etihad Airways PJSC (read our analysis), national carrier Air India has put the last three of its ultra-long-haul 777-200LRs up for sale.

The airline has posted a tender (view it here), inviting bids for the aircraft bearing registrations VT-ALF (named after the state of Jharkhand), VT-ALG (Kerala), and VT-ALH (Maharashtra).

Air India Boeing 777-237LR VT-ALG Kerala on short finals to runway 27 at Mumbai airport. Photo copyright Prathamesh Kini, all rights reserved. Do not re-use or re-produce.
Air India Boeing 777-237LR VT-ALG Kerala on short finals to runway 27 at Mumbai airport. Photo copyright Prathamesh Kini, all rights reserved. Do not re-use or re-produce. Used with permission.

Amongst the tender documents is a LOPA diagram (layout of passenger accommodation) which shows the generosity of the airline with an industry leading 34″ to 35″ seat pitch in economy class compared to 32″ to 33″ for most other airlines. This enables other airlines to offer about 12% to 17% extra seats in the same 777-200LR aircraft. Any potential buyer will surely look to reducing this seat pitch to add more seats, and this would require another re-certification of the aircraft and its added expense.

Air India Boeing 777-200LR aircraft LOPA diagram. 777-237LR layout of passenger accommodation seat map seat plan.
Air India Boeing 777-200LR aircraft LOPA diagram. With only 195 seats, AI economy class capacity is 12% to 17% lesser than other airlines’ B777-200LRs.

About three weeks ago, Bangalore Aviation published exclusive photos showing VT-ALH, the newest of the three Boeing 777-200LRs in Air India’s fleet lying outdoors at Mumbai airport in a dilapidated condition. (Read story and see the photos).

Air India Boeing 777-200LR VT-ALH Maharashtra cannibalised at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji airport
Air India Boeing 777-200LR VT-ALH at Mumbai airport

The story invited a lot of speculation as to why Air India would strip parts from its newest aircraft in order to fit on to its older aircraft? While we clarify that changing of parts between aircraft is an accepted and common practice in the industry, it is normally the older aircraft that is cannibalised in order to keep fit the newer asset. From the aircrafts’ specifications in the tender, we see that VT-ALH has a little over half the flying cycles (landings and take-offs) compared to its earlier two siblings VT-ALF and VT-ALG.

Aircraft flight hours and flight cycles Air India Boeing 777-237LR VT-ALF, VT-ALG, VT-ALH. 777-200LR
Aircraft flight hours and flight cycles Air India Boeing 777-237LR VT-ALF, VT-ALG, VT-ALH.

One can also observe the extreme short stage lengths of about seven hours each on these aircraft (flight hours divided by flight cycles). The 777-200LR is purpose designed for ultra-long-haul (ULH) flights of 16 hours and greater.

Also very curiously, while the airline claimed the aircraft was “in storage” three weeks ago, the tender document dated April 17th claims the aircraft is “Under Check”?

Conclusions are for you, dear reader, to arrive at and share via a comment.


About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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  1. If they plan to sell VT-ALH it should be undergoing a maintenance check to prepare it. It is amazing to see that the sector length on these aircraft is 7 to 8 hours when AI has routes more suited for the aircraft designed mission like North America. I am sure the economics could have been improved by dropping first class and increasing business class and reducing the economy class pitch to an industry norm.

  2. Sadly it just demonstrates Air India’s total incompetence and general mismanagement. It’s reputation as being one of the worst run airlines in the world seems richly deserved. It’s considered to be such a poor airline with such bad technical capability that I do not know anyone who would willingly fly with it, and the more you know about it the less likely they would choose it. That aircraft have be sold and one has been left to get like this, speaks volumes about how poor this airline really is in every way.

    • Behramjee Ghadially

      think your facts are wrong. Firstly, AI could not have paid $200M per
      B77L as that price was nearly its published price tag when it was
      originally ordered 8 years ago. I would say AI paid a maximum of
      $125-130M per aircraft. Also it used the B77Ls in
      its first 3-4 years for DEL-NYC + BOM-NYC nonstop flights hence using
      it correctly. However one must understand that when airlines such as
      EK/TG/AC etc ordered the A340-500, the cost of fuel was $30-40 per
      barrel and so was the B77L when it was ordered by EK/QR/AI etc. No one
      at that time could have forecasted that fuel price would rise nearly 4
      times in less than a decade ! The
      main problem in my opinion for AI with regards to its B77L is the type
      of configuration it is in. It should have had a 2 class cabin
      accommodating maximum 30 pax in J class and 261 in Y (3-3-3 layout).

      • I bow to your number Big B. 🙂 and you are on the dot on the cabin config. In fact even a very senior Boeing executive told me both Jet and AI config and use their 777’s incorrectly.

        • Next sale would be B777-300ERs atleast 3 of them would be sold when they run out of cash. Now 6 are used on US routes, one in UK route and 2 on Saudi routes. 3 are just wasted in the current schedules. Either the MRU of Air India is wasting their time or AI schedulers are wasting their time given the Boeing official check times and duration.

          • The Air India website says that they own only 9 of the ERs, so where are the other 3? Also a look at the AI schedule of April shows that AI flies the LR only once a week to Riyadh from Delhi and back. Is it not gross under utilization of 2 777-200LRs considering 1 is under storage?

          • I see that they show all 12 in the ERs ( The figures are not correct when it comes to owning and leasing. The LRs and the B744s are just running to keep them running not that they cannot operate the schedule without these. Current decision makers of AI still believe in the old ways of keeping a back up aircraft of same type for schedule. In modern days given improved reliability of the aircraft it is not necessary to keep the same type though unless you do not trust the MRU unit productivity in keeping the aircraft ready. I find it difficult to understand when AI management cites fuel cost in operating B744s. Much older B744s are still very much operational and profitable in British Airways.

  3. Etihad modified configuration as 8 , 40 , 189 — 237. Looks like it works for them.