Air India calls off visit to Boeings North Charleston campus
A delegation from Air India, Boeing South Carolina’s first customer, had been scheduled to stop in North Charleston next week after picking up the airline’s first Dreamliner in Washington.
But now the timing of that delivery from 787 headquarters in Everett, Wash., is in up in the air, and according to Boeing, the associated visit to the Lowcountry is off.
“The plan is no longer to stop in South Carolina for the first Air India 787 delivery,” Wilson Chow, a Boeing spokesman, said in an email Thursday. “We are still on track to deliver the Everett-built plane to Air India.”
Chow referred to Air India questions about exactly when India’s national carrier would get its first Dreamliner and why it aborted the pit stop in South Carolina. The carrier’s spokesmen did not respond to a request for comment Friday.
Uncertainty surrounding Air India’s Dreamliner deliveries is hardly a new phenomenon.
The national carrier ordered 27 of the twin-aisle 787s, which feature fuel-saving composite fuselages and passenger comforts like bigger windows and higher humidity, in 2005. But Boeing was more than three years late delivering its first Dreamliner last September, and the pace of deliveries has been slow in the intervening months.
For its part, Air India has struggled mightily since merging with Indian Airlines in 2007, losing money every year. The Indian government approved a $5.8 billion bailout last month, but this month brought new trouble for Air India: a pilot strike.
Now in its third week, hundreds of legacy Air India pilots are protesting wages and a plan to train their colleagues from the former Indian Airlines in how to fly the Dreamliner. The work stoppage, which has been condemned by the government and the courts of the populous South Asian democracy, has led to canceled flights, further financial problems and worrying talk about the future of the airline.
Recent reports out of India have suggested the first delivery out of Everett could come as early as this month or as late as mid-June.
Meanwhile, the first South Carolina-built plane flew for the first time Wednesday afternoon. It must now travel to Texas to be painted and return for further testing before it can be delivered to Air India.
Boeing South Carolina officials have said that celebratory event will happen by the end of June.
By year’s end, Air India is expected to take three more locally made Dreamliners, which now sit in various states of completion in the massive final assembly building in North Charleston.