Embarking on “great expansion plans”, Air India will start direct flights to Madrid from December 1 apart from planning to have six more new connections next year. The national carrier, which turned operationally profitable in the last financial year, is working on ways to revive its fortunes. “Madrid connection starts on 1st Dec (December) to be followed by another at least six new connections in 2017. Great expansion plans for Air India,” Air India CMD Ashwani Lohani said in a tweet.
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It could not be immediately ascertained whether six new connections refer to flying to new destinations or increasing the frequencies between the existing ones. “Connecting Kanpur and Bhatinda with delhi 2nd week of next month. Connecting India continues with vigour,” Lohani said in another tweet. Earlier this year, Air India had launched Ahmedabad-London-Newark flight, apart from Delhi-Vienna services.
In August, Air India officials had said there are plans to start flights to Washington or Toronto by April-May next year. The other routes on the anvil are Copenhagen and some destinations in Africa. The carrier is also looking to ramp up the fleet with more fuel-efficient A320 neo (new engine option) planes.
The Air India group has a fleet of around 135 planes, including nearly 70 from Airbus. For the first time in nearly a decade, Air India reported an operating profit of Rs 105 crore in the last fiscal.
Various steps such as rationalisation of certain loss making routes, closure of overseas offline offices at certain locations, phasing out of old fleet and consequential reduction in maintenance costs have been initiated to reduce the airline’s losses.