Air India, despite its financial woes, is lending muscle to its low cost subsidiary Air India Express in a bid to thwart competition from foreign low-cost airlines flying into India.
Air India is transferring 10 A320 aircraft, part of the erstwhile Indian Airlines fleet, to Air India Express, which would be deployed in the Dubai, Sharjah, Kuala Lumpur and Colombo sectors.
“These aircraft have been converted into all economy class configuration and would be deployed in the Air India Express fleet during the coming winter schedule starting October 25,” said an Air India spokesperson.
These nearly two-decade-old aircraft would join the fleet of Air India Express, which has 24 Boeing 737-800s including 17 brand new planes. The remaining seven are leased aircraft and another Boeing 737-800, the last of the 18 ordered for the airline, which would join the fleet soon.
Thus, by the end of this month, Air India’s low-cost arm would have 34 aircraft and could corner a sizeable market share in the 14 international sectors it operates.
Air India had in a controversial decision in 2005 opted to buy low capacity Boeing 737-800 planes for Air India Express to replace large-capacity A310s.
In the last few years, overseas carriers have aggressively expanded their presence in India affecting Air India’s revenues.
Low-cost carriers such as Air Arabia, Tiger Airways, Air Asia and Jazeera Airways are among those entering India. These are expected to challenge Air India on its home turf, forcing it to strengthen its fleet in the budget segment.
Air India is also enhancing its full-service flights into the Gulf region as well as South East Asian countries.