Roaring jet fuel price brings turbo-props back
In India’s civil aviation market dominated by jet airliners, ATR turbo props are getting popular. As jet fuel prices go up steadily over $110 a barrel and overall operational costs keep increasing, Indian carriers are adding more ATR aircraft, which are fuel-efficient, to their fleet in an attempt reduce mounting losses.
Kingfisher Airlines, Deccan and Jet Airways collectively have 45 ATRs in their fleet and are in the process of acquiring more in the coming year even though they are aggressively inducting wide bodied Boeing and Airbus aircraft for long haul operations.
Currently, Kingfisher Airlines-Deccan combine has 36 ATRs, 18 each, in the fleet of 83 aircraft and are one of the largest ATR operators in the world. USA’s largest regional airline American Eagle Airlines has 39 ATRs in its fleet of 305 aircraft.
UB group chairman Vijay Mallya who controls full service Kingfisher Airlines and value carrier Deccan recently observed that post merger (of Kingfisher and Deccan) Kingfisher Airlines would have the world’s biggest ATR fleet.
Kingfisher has ordered more than 10 ATRs to be inducted in the coming years while Jet Airways in 2007 placed an order for 13 ATRs. According to Jet Airways executive Director Saroj K Datta the airline was in the process of deploying six ATRs between November 20007 and December 2008.
Six additional ATRs would be deployed between May 2009 and July 2010. In 2007 Indian carriers Jet, Deccan and Kingfisher got delivery of 15 ATRs including 11 by Kingfisher.
Apart from saving on fuel cost, the ATRs also help airlines to comply with DGCA’s route disbursal guideline, which makes mandatory for the airline to operate services to unprofitable routes like airports in the North East and other non-metro feeder routes.
“ATR operation is viable if it is operated within a distance of 500 nautical miles. A mid sized jet aircraft is profitable for routes which are more than 500 nautical miles. Going forward, more ATRs and regional jets will acquired by Indian carriers,” said Kapil Kaul, CEO (India) Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.
ATRs have been preferred by scheduled airlines since the government has reduced sales tax on such turbo props to 4 per cent to encourage deployment of fuel-efficient aircraft and to enable airlines to provide air connectivity to small towns in the country.
These 66 seater aircraft in two variants ATR 42-500 and ATR 72-500 are deployed in short distance feeder routes where limited passenger load factor does not require the induction of a Boeing 737 or A320 aircraft.