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More Indian airlines should consider opportunities to add wide-body carriers to their fleet to fly direct long-haul routes as the sector recovers from the covid-19 pandemic in the coming months, Salil Gupte, president of Boeing India, told Mint.

As of now, Air India and Vistara operate wide body planes. Others like SpiceJet, IndiGo (an Airbus customer), and others have narrow body fleet.

Industry experts opine that a large number of passengers may prefer to fly directly to long haul destinations in Europe, North America and others, post pandemic, without stopping by at hubs in the Middle East or elsewhere due to the safety reasons.

"There will be opportunities for wide-body planes as we recover from pandemic," Gupte added.

Boeing currently offers 787 and 777 in wide body planes to its customers.

Wide-body planes can typically fly direct long-haul flights while narrow body planes like the Boeing 737 family and Airbus A320 family planes can fly up to 6-7 hours at a stretch.

"There is a clear winner in the market for wide body, which is the 787 platform, whether it's the 787-8, 787-9 or 787-10. This aircraft has outsold all other wide body competitors (like Airbus A330 and A350)," Gupte said.

"Reason for this is the superior economics it offers. This has proven not only for premium carriers but also low-cost long-haul carriers like Scoot in Singapore," he said, adding that whether the Scoot model can be replicated in India will depend on the markets Indian airlines plan to fly to.

Gupte is bullish about Boeing's 737 Max planes which have been allowed by aviation regulators across the world, including India to return to service. The aircraft were banned in 2019 following two fatal crashes. China, though, is yet to allow the aircraft to resume service.

"Different carriers will have different requirements. There are 189 seats solutions (offered by 737Max8 planes) and 200 seats offered by 737 Max 8-200 planes, which airlines like Ryan Air and Akasa have ordered," Gupte said.

At present, SpiceJet is the sole operator of Boeing 737 Max planes. The airline has 13 of 737 Max8 planes in its fleet currently.

SpiceJet Ltd. will induct 50 Boeing 737 Max planes by 2022-23 as the airline hopes to phase out its older Boeing 737-800 NG and replace them with fuel efficient Max planes.

The airline had in 2017 ordered 205 Boeing 737Max planes, which includes 155 firm orders and 50 options.

Billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed upcoming airline Akasa Air has placed an order for 72 Boeing 737 MAX jets, valued at nearly $9 billion at list prices. The airline hopes to take delivery of the planes by mid-2022 when it plans to start its operations.

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