Air India and other Dreamliner operators across the world have grounded their entire fleet of 50 B-787s delivered so far following a directive from the US aviation authority after a fire risk reportedly caused by a battery problem.
In spite of this, the national carrier has gone ahead with its plan of sale and leaseback, which has already been approved by the government as part of its turnaround and financial restructuring plans.
Sale-leaseback is an arrangement in which an owner sells an asset to a leasing firm and, at the same time, leases it (as a lessee) on a long-term basis to retain exclusive possession and use. This frees capital tied up in a fixed asset, while the lender obtains a guaranteed lease.
The airline can also claim tax deductions as the asset was no longer owned but leased, which would help it in streamlining its operations and cut costs.
Air India has invited quotations from lessors on or before February 5 on a request for proposal (RFP) which said it "would sell the aircraft to the lessor and immediately leaseback them under an operating lease for a period of 12 years, with an option to extend."
Though the Indian flag carrier has received six Dreamliners between September and December last and is expected to get one this month, it announced in the RFP the sale and leaseback of seven of them. However, delivery of the seventh plane could be deferred due to the prevailing problem.
Air India plans to sell all its 27 Dreamliner aircraft to a lessor and lease them back to operate by paying monthly rentals, a common fund-raising practice among airlines.