New Delhi: State-run Air India may need another 60 new aircraft by 2011 to expand operations and meet growing demand, the firm’s chairman said on 29 July.
“Looking at the demand and the passenger growth, the number would be in the range of 60 planes. But this is a very rough estimate,” Air India Chairman V. Thulasidas said at a ceremony to mark the induction of a new aircraft to its fleet.
The government merged state-run carriers Air India and Indian earlier this year to help them face tough competition from private airlines.
The merged entity, to be called Air India, will begin operations by August and will have more than 100 planes in its fleet, which analysts say will be big enough to compete with larger Asian rivals like Singapore Airlines and Emirates.
The state-run carrier has already ordered a total of 43 new planes from Airbus and 68 from Boeing to be delivered over the next few years, with 25 of these to be added this year.
It has already received the first of its long-range Boeing planes, which will be used for a daily non-stop flight between Mumbai and New York.
Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said his ministry would revisit the aircraft acquisition plan in two weeks’ time and the process for identifying new aircraft would be started.
India’s state-run carriers have not bought new aircraft since the 1990s and have lost market share in recent years.
“Our national carriers were unable to take full advantage of the opportunities at hand for a variety of reasons,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said at the ceremony.
“The shortage of aircraft was one such and our government has taken decisive steps to address this problem.”