Air India was once a major A310 operator, with dozens of aircraft in its fleet. The plane was used to fly a variety of busy routes to the Middle East and East Asia and became the workhorse of the fleet. The last passenger A310 left Air India’s fleet in 2011, ending over two decades of history. So what happened to the A310s?
Air India took delivery of its first Airbus A310s in 1986, with a total of three joining the fleet in the same year. Registered VT-EJG, the first A310-300 featured 201 seats in total, 181 in economy and 20 in business class. The planes were mostly meant for regional, medium-haul routes from key cities in India.
Air India’s fleet consisted of the Boeing 747s and Airbus A310s (with a handful of A300s) through the 1980s and 90s. The 747s found themselves on important trunk routes to the US, Europe, and some East Asian cities. The A310 found its place serving routes in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, such as Dammam, Kuwait, Bangkok, and Shanghai.
After a long hiatus from taking more A310s from 1987 until 2000 (minus a few short leases), Air India began expanding its fleet. The carrier took over 20 aircraft between 2000 and 2008, according to Planespotters.net, making it one of the major operators of the type. So, where did these planes go?
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For the early 2000s, the A310 was almost symbolic of Air India’s operations around the globe. With passenger numbers on the rise, the A310 offered decent range and seating capacity for the flag carrier to keep pace with new private airlines. For longer flights, Air India always had the reliable 747.
However, Air India was looking to begin phasing out the A310 by the end of the 2000s, hoping to find a longer-range aircraft. This aircraft could also take over some of the 747’s routes in Europe, streamlining the fleet. The carrier found its answer in the Boeing 787, ordering 27 planes in 2006.
Most of Air India’s early A310s found homes with new carriers around the globe, including Czech Airlines, Sudan Airways, wet lease operator Jordan Aviation, and FedEx. Notably, some Air India A310s went to Air Transat, which became the last operator of the plane this year. The freight A310s continued to be in Air India’s fleet until 2012. Many planes were also scrapped, especially older ones with no more buyers.
For Air India, the A310 didn’t continue to make financial sense into the 2010s. The newer A320 family offered enough range to reach some of the A310s routes, while the Boeing 787 could reach far more long-haul destinations. The choice to phase out the aircraft made financial and strategic sense for the carrier.
While not as famous as Air India’s 747 fleet, which as earned it the moniker of the “Maharaja” (or king), the A310 did have an impact on the carrier. The plane allowed Air India to expand into new markets and establish high-frequency routes in Asia, a legacy that has allowed it to stay viable even in the face of competition.
Did you ever fly the Airbus A310? Did the aircraft have any unique features not seen today? Let us know in the comments below!