India’s commercial airline fleet grew 29% in 2019
Despite Jet Airways, with its fleet of 123 aircraft, shutting down operations in 2019, the year saw India’s fleet of commercial aircraft growing by nearly 29%. From 520 in 2018, the number of commercial aircraft in the country rose to 669 in 2019.
Data from the country’s aviation regulator, Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), reveals that in 2019, the country’s eight domestic carriers added 145 aircraft to their fleets, compared to 104 new aircraft in 2018. GoAir, which inducted 17 aircraft in 2018, added 13 in 2019. SpiceJet inducted 46 aircraft, including six Bombardier Q400 for services to smaller cities under the regional connectivity scheme. AirAsia India added eight aircraft in 2019 compared to five in 2018. IndiGo, the country largest airline with 47.5% of the passenger share, added 53 aircraft in 2019 compared to 60 in 2018. Vistara, which started international operations in 2019, inducted 21 aircraft last year compared to five in 2018. National carrier Air India, inducted only three aircraft in 2019, while it had inducted 12 aircraft in 2018. Air India Express, a subsidiary of Air India, did not induct any new aircraft last year, but had inducted two Boeing B737 in 2018. Alliance Air, also an Air India subsidiary that mostly connects Metros to tier 2 and 3 cities, inducted three aircraft in 2018 and one in 2019.
A senior airline official said that the expansion of the commercial airline fleet indicates airlines are optimistic about future passenger growth. “Airlines prepare a plan of fleet expansion after studying the demand and supply ratio. It can be expected that Indian carriers will launch more flights, especially in the international sector, in the days to come.”
Data from DGCA shows that the number of domestic passengers between January and November 2019 was 131.15 million, compared to 126.28 million during the corresponding period of the previous year, which is a growth of 3.86%.
Passenger numbers grew despite Jet Airways announcing its shutdown in April 2019. The airline’s suspension of operations affected passenger footfalls at major airports. Most of its aircraft were on lease and were taken back by the lender. Later, some of these aircraft were leased out to SpiceJet and Vistara. Currently, 13 Jet Airways aircraft are lying unused (this number is not included in the total national fleet).
Aviation experts said that they expected passenger growth in 2020-21 to be significantly higher than the previous year. The growth will also be affected by the fate of B737 MAX and the Airbus with A32neo aircraft, both of which have been grounded for safety reasons. The original manufacturer of Airbus A320neo is in the process of getting its problematic engines fixed. The deadline given by DGCA to retrofit the aircraft is January 31.
SpiceJet has 13 grounded B737Max while Go Air and IndiGo have around 109 Airbus A320neo aircraft.
Kapil Kaul, president of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA- India) said, “Indian carriers have been expanding despite grounding of B737Max by the DGCA and technical glitches faced in Airbus A320neo aircraft. Similarly, it is expected that the major airlines will focus more on international expansion in FY [financial year] 2021 and will continue their aggressive expansion in FY 2020 higher than planned. This will be done to compensate for the capacity released by Jet Airways and to secure slots in Mumbai airport.”