State-owned Air India is planning to introduce Boeing 787 Dreamliner planes on high-traffic routes in the country, in a bid to regain the dominance it enjoyed in the aviation sector in the past and also counter competition from India's most profitable carrier, IndiGo.
"Slowly, we'll introduce Dreamliners in metros such as Bombay-Delhi route. We find it will be feasible to offer a high-end product like the Dreamliner as it will do well on these routes," a top Air India official told the Business Standard.
At present, the carrier operates Airbus A320 planes on such routes. It also plans to run the A320s between Tier-II and Tier-III cities, which hold huge potential, given the government's focus on scaling up regional connectivity.
"Immediately, we need to strengthen the domestic market and increase capacity. We will strengthen the existing routes by adding capacity, because there is a huge potential in this market," the official said.
Passenger traffic on domestic routes rose 20.2 percent in India last year, posting the highest growth in the world, according to International Air Transport Association (IATA) data.
While Air India's market share stood at 16.4 percent by the end of 2015, IndiGo had a share of 36.2 percent, data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation showed. Overall, domestic airlines saw passenger traffic of 81 million in 2015.
Debt-ridden Air India is expected to report profit for the first time in more than four years in the current fiscal year, primarily on account of a fall in operating costs helped by cheaper fuel prices and increased capacity from Dreamliner operations, among others.
Currently, the national carrier has 21 Boeing 787-800 aircraft. Each Dreamliner plane can carry 256 passengers in a single flight compared to 195 seat capacity in the older aircraft it plied.
"Passengers will be ready to pay Rs 200 more for amenities that a 787 can provide -- like more leg room and higher luggage allowance," the official told the daily while commenting on the viability of flying the Dreamliner on domestic routes.