Analysts skeptical of Air India’s 787 problems

An Air India 787 Dreamliner performs a demonstration flight at the 2013 Paris Air Show.

The old service industry adage that the customer is always right apparently doesn’t apply to Air India, according to aviation industry analysts.

Those experts say the carrier’s repeated complaints about Boeing Co.’s 787 Dreamliners are wearing thin, not that there was much substance to them to begin with.

A report last week by www.dnaindia.com, an online news service, said Air India’s engineers have asked management to hold off on the delivery of any more 787s until myriad problems are fixed. The airline claims to have lost about $27 million over the past year on international routes that use the Dreamliner, with much of those losses attributed to snags that have grounded airplanes.

The Times of India, the country’s largest selling English language newspaper, proclaimed earlier this month that: “After a period of relative calm, Dreamliner snags are back with a vengeance for Air India.”

Saj Ahmad, chief analyst for Strategic Aero Research, said he’s skeptical of the airline’s claims, saying they are more likely due to operator error.

“Air India is an utter farce of an airline,” Ahmad said. “From the ground up, this entire mismanaged entity was way out of its depth in taking the 787 because it’s just so advanced.”

Ahmad said it speaks volumes that none of Boeing’s other 30-plus Dreamliner customers have reported similar problems.

“The only natural conclusion here is that the problem lies solely with this ... airline,” Ahmad said.

Richard Aboulafia, vice president of analysis for The Teal Group, also questioned the veracity of the carrier’s complaints.

“Since this is Air India, it’s hard to say what is due to maintenance procedures — or even politics — and what is due to issues with the aircraft themselves,” he told The Post and Courier.

Aboulafia said the Dreamliner’s entry into service wasn’t easy, with readiness rates well below typical even for a new program.

“But these problems have been getting better,” he said.

Air India has taken delivery of 21 Dreamliners — all of them Dash-8 models — over the past three years, including a dozen that were built at Boeing South Carolina’s campus in North Charleston. The rest were assembled at the planemaker’s larger sister plant in Everett, Wash. The airline has six more Dreamliners on order.

Boeing spokesman Doug Alder did not respond to a request for comments.

Ahmad, however, didn’t hold back, calling Air India “the bane of today’s 787 operations.”

“It’s a shame Boeing can’t wash their hands of Air India and pretend they didn’t exist,” he said.

Reach David Wren at 937-5550 or on Twitter at @David_Wren_