Grounding of aircraft has cost Air India dearly but frequent breakdowns of its flights in foreign cities such as Paris, Chicago and Tel Aviv has taken a heavy toll on the airline's precarious finances in recent months.
Sources said that the airline has been giving almost $1.5 million daily to its engineering unit to ensure its aircraft keep flying but the latter has failed to put all its jets in operations.
At the beginning of the financial year, as many as 20 aircraft, including A320, B777 and B787 were grounded for want of spare parts but are being gradually put into operation.
"In the last 2-3 months especially June, many flights reported technical issues after landing in cities like San Francisco, Paris, London, Chicago and Tel Aviv.
"Since all these flights were long-haul ones, the cost of flying them back is huge. It costs Rs 2-3 crore. Some of the A320 continues to develop glitches. A few days back, an A320 was grounded in Port Blair," an executive said.
The executive pointed out to inefficient inventory management of spares parts related to B747 aircraft.
"About Rs 45 crore worth of spares of B747 have not been moved for the last five years. If efficiently managed, this much money would not have been blocked," he said, questioning the functioning of Air India Engineering Services Ltd headed by H.R. Jagannath.
A senior executive of Air India Engineering Services downplayed the situation saying on most occasions aircraft have been grounded due to product defect on part of suppliers and not due to maintenance-related issues.
"Since our operation is large so it is quite natural that some of the aircraft would be on the ground for routine maintenance," he said.
But the official quoted above rejected this, saying that grounding on account of maintenance-related issues has been a major problem for the last few years affecting its optimum fleet utilization.
Air India currently has a fleet size of about 128 aircraft, which includes A320, A321, B777, B787 and B747.