For the last few years, Air India has exclusively flown a Boeing widebody fleet of the 747, 777, and 787. However, just a few years ago, it also flew an Airbus aircraft: two A330s. So why did the airline fly these jets? What happened to them? Let’s find out!
Data in this article is courtesy of Planespotters.net.
Air India has only operated two Airbus A330-200s during its history. The pair joined the fleet in September and November 2007, registered VT-IWA and -IWB, respectively. Air India leased the planes following a merger with Indian Airlines, a primarily Airbus operator, and to grow its operations in the Middle East and East Asia.
However, as noted in the Deccan Herald, the A330s were actually a stop-gap for the delayed 787 Dreamliners. While Air India had placed an order for 27 787-8s early on, production delays meant the plane’s delivery was pushed back several years. To protect its market share, the flag carrier chose to lease two A330s.
The A330-200s could be seen on routes to Shanghai, Tokyo, Riyadh, Dubai, Singapore, and many others during their stint at the airline. Both aircraft had been leased directly from Airbus for their seven years of service.
VT-IWA and IWB were delivered new to Sweden’s Novair in September and October 2000, where they flew for seven years. After Air India, they had an interesting story too.
Stay informed: Sign up for our daily and weekly aviation news digests.
After both planes exited the fleet in November 2014, they went aviation lessor Apollo Group. Less than a year later, in October 2015, the pair made their way to Turkish low-cost carrier Onur Air. They flew domestic and charter operations during this period and even spent time on lease to Saudi Arabian Airlines.
While the A330-200s still have years before retirement, things haven’t gone ideally. The two aircraft have seen little flying time and have both been in storage. VT-IWA/TC-OCE has been sitting on the ground in Istanbul, with no flights since September 2019. However, it remains in Onur’s fleet.
VT-IWB was retired by Onur in May 2019 and went to Wyatt Aerospace in April 2020, where it has been scrapped for parts, likely due to the pandemic denting demand for new widebodies.
After deliveries of the 787-8s grew, Air India moved all medium- and select long-haul routes to the Dreamliner. With better fuel efficiency and higher seating capacity, these jets offered the best value for the loss-making carrier. The 747 was also slowly eased out of international flights and can only be seen occasionally on domestic routes.
It’s important to note that maintaining just two aircraft of any type is an expensive affair due to separate crewing and maintenance costs. Airlines usually only take this on due to dire shortages, as Air India saw in 2007.
What do you think about Air India’s A330 foray? Did you ever fly this aircraft? Let us know in the comments!