What Happened To Air India’s Airbus A330s?

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!

Air India Airbus A330-200
Air India’s two A330s joined the fleet in 2007 and flew for exactly seven years before retirement. Photo: John Taggart via Wikimedia Commons

Data in this article is courtesy of Planespotters.net.

Pair

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.

Air India Airbus A330-200
The A330s were promptly phased out with the delivery of new 787s to Air India. Photo: Aero Icarus via Wikimedia Commons

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.

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Moving on

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.

Onur Air A330
Onur Air flew the planes until 2018 and 2019 before retiring them from the fleet. Photo: Nabil Molinari via Flickr

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.

Newer

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.

Air India Boeing 787
The 787 has replaced the A330 in fleets around the world, and Air India is no exception to this trend. Photo: Getty Images

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!

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