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Air India to fly to small cities, add 20 small planes to fleet

business Updated: May 26, 2016 06:05 IST

NEW DELHI: In a big push for regional connectivity, national carrier Air India (AI) has announced plans to start operations to virgin routes having no flight connectivity using smaller turboprop planes.

AI will also lease bigger widebody jets to expand its international network, Ashwani Lohani, the airline’s chairman and managing director said on Wednesday.

Lohani, who met representatives of 22 states and union territories, has been promised full support by state governments in the form of zero taxes on aviation turbine fuel and viability gap funding, if AI starts operations to smaller towns and cities.

AI is considering connecting cities within Rajasthan, Kar nataka, Chattisgarh, Gujarat, Punjab, Uttarakhand and Maharashtra, Lohani said after the meeting.

AI through its subsidiary Alliance Air operates to 34 stations at present. It has a fleet of seven ATRs and two CRJ planes. “By March, we will add ten more ATRs and will get another ten in 2017-18,” said Lohani.

“State governments have expressed their full support. We have asked travel agents and tour operators for feedback on the kind of passenger load factors that can be expected. If we price right, these routes can be very profitable,” the CMD said.

AI, which plans to add 100 planes to its fleet in the next four years, will take five wide-body jets on lease in addition to the nine it has on order.