Air India to sell three Boeing 777 aircraft

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Air India plans to sell three of its Boeing 777s for mopping up resources to stem its liabilities, according to sources, barely four months after selling five of these planes to Gulf carrier Etihad Airways.

The airline offered three Boeing 777-200 Long Range airplanes, powered with GE 90-110 engines, for outright sale through competitive global bidding, Air India sources said a day after a meeting of its board in New Delhi.

The long-haul global routes flown by these aircraft would now be gradually replaced by Boeing 787 Dreamliners, which Air India is inducting at a steady pace. 13 of the 27 Dreamliners the airline has ordered have already joined the fleet.

The sale of five B-777s to Etihad in December last year was estimated to fetch over $335 million (Rs. 2,070 crore at 1 dollar = 61.8 rupees), which Air India plans to happy wheels use to pay off its outstanding debt.

The three B-777s being sold now have a seat capacity of 238, including eight First Class and 35 Business Class seats.

While the commercial bids for these three five-year-old planes would be opened on May 13, the technical bids would be opened at a later date, the sources said.

As part of its turnaround plan, Air India is inducting the Dreamliners and going for a sale and leaseback arrangement to affect major savings. Under such an arrangement, the seller of an asset leases it back from the purchaser for a long-term and continues to use it.

The airline estimates it could raise about $840 million by selling seven Dreamliners and leasing them back. The money earned through the leaseback arrangement would be used to pay off the bridge loans taken against these aircraft.

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