Air India gets first Dreamliner

Ailing state-run carrier Air India took delivery of its first 787-800 Dreamliner yesterday, joint statements from the airline and US manufacturer Boeing said, ending a four-year wait.

The handover -- the first of 27 Dreamliners ordered by Air India -- has been delayed since 2008 because of production problems at Boeing. The carrier and the firm were then involved in a public spat over compensation for the delay.

The 256-seater aircraft was received by top Air India officials in South Carolina in the United States. The Dreamliner will arrive in the Indian capital New Delhi on Saturday.

The Dreamliners mark an important phase for the loss-making airline because they will replace some older, fuel-guzzling planes.

Air India will also be able to fly to more foreign destinations to match other international airlines, analysts say.

"Today is a great day for Air India as the most technologically advanced and fuel-efficient airplane in the world joins our fleet," Air India's chairman and managing director Rohit Nandan said in a statement.

Air India -- which emerged from a nearly two-month pilot strike in July -- has been struggling to cut losses.

The carrier's once-dominant market share has shrunk to 18.2 percent in the face of fierce competition from private and low-cost carriers that have taken to the air since India liberalised its commercial aviation sector in the 1990s.

In April, the government cleared a $US5.75 billion bailout package to help Air India, which has debts of $US8.3 billion.