Air India Plans To Keep Its Boeing 747 Fleet

The onset of the coronavirus pandemic last year prompted several airlines to prematurely retire their remaining Boeing 747s. However, this has not been the case everywhere. Indeed, Air India is set to retain its last four jumbos for the time being. This comes after a recent statement from the country’s Minister of State for Civil Aviation regarding the 747s.

Air India Boeing 747 Getty
On average, Air India’s 747s are at least twice as old as its other aircraft types. Photo: Getty Images

Not going anywhere

According to reports in the Indian media, the country’s flag carrier Air India is set to buck industry trends by keeping its remaining Boeing 747s in its fleet. While the ongoing coronavirus pandemic has expedited fleet modernization programs at airlines worldwide, Indian media outlet Business Today reports that the jumbo still has a place at Air India.

This is not the first time this year that the future of the airline’s last four 747s has made headlines. Indeed, in March this year, the Indian flag carrier confirmed that the jumbo was still part of its plans, after retirement rumors emerged in local publications. Earlier this week, Minister of State for Civil Aviation V K Singh stated that:

There are four 747-400 aircraft in Air India’s fleet, and their average age is about 26 years. Currently, three of the four 747s are under maintenance checks. At present, Air India has no plans to phase out the operation of the Boeing 747 from its fleet.”

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Three of Air India’s four remaining 747s are currently undergoing maintenance. Photo: Getty Images

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Air India’s present 747s

As established, Air India has four Boeing 747-400s left in its fleet. According to ch-aviation.com, the airline has, operated a further nine examples of the most popular variant of the 747. Air India received the four remaining aircraft between 1993 and 1996.

Data from SeatGuru shows that the carrier’s 747-400s sport a three-class, 423-seat configuration. As far as the aircraft’s lower deck is concerned, 12 first class flatbeds are located in the plane’s nose. The rest of this deck features 385 economy seats.

The upper deck of Air India’s 747-400s houses a four-abreast business class cabin. This features 26 angle-flat seats. According to data from RadarBox.com, the most recent example to fly was VT-EVA. This aircraft last flew from Delhi to Mumbai on March 11th, 2021.

Air India Boeing 747
VT-EBD, a 747-200, was Air India’s first jumbo. Photo: Michel Gilliand via Wikimedia Commons

Half a century of jumbo operations

Across all variants, the Boeing 747 family has now had a place in Air India’s fleet for more than 50 years. It received its first example, registered as VT-EBD and named Emperor Ashoka, in March 1971. Tragically, in 1978, this aircraft was involved in a crash near Mumbai caused by instrument failure, in which all 213 passengers and crew were killed.

All in all, Air India has operated a wide variety of 747 variants. Specifically, ch-aviation notes the presence of seven 747-200s, two 747-300Ms (combi aircraft), 13 747-400s (four current and nine historical), and a single 747-400M Combi. Simple Flying has reached out to Air India for further information regarding its 747 fleet, which we shall add in due course.

What do you make of Air India’s plans to keep its remaining Boeing 747s? Have you ever flown on one of the airline’s jumbos? Let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.

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