MUMBAI: SpiceJet and Vistara are set to induct several aircraft in the coming months as the Indian airlines moved in to occupy the slots temporarily alloted in busy domestic airports from among those left vacant by the grounding of Jet Airways.

No-frills carrier SpiceJet is set to induct its hundredth aircraft in the coming days—one of more than 50 it plans to add to its fleet in the current calendar year, chairman and managing director Ajay Singh said on Friday.

“As we sprint on our growth path, SpiceJet is eyeing an aggressive expansion plan across both its domestic and international network," Singh said in a letter to employees.

“And the rigorous ground work for it (flying medium to long-haul international flights) has already begun," Singh added in the letter, a copy of which has been reviewed by Mint.

Domestic airlines are looking to increase their capacity to cater to the growing demand in the region by trying and filling in the vacuum left by Jet.

The government temporarily reallocated Jet’s slots to keep a check on reducing capacity in the sector due to a significant drop in the carrier’s flights.

The airline, struggling to repay its debts, suspended its operations on 17 April.

According to one person with direct knowledge of the matter, IndiGo and SpiceJet have been allocated 130 slots each, Vistara 110, GoAir 52, Air Asia 42 and Air India 24 slots at Indian airports from Jet’s quota.

SpiceJet, the third largest domestic carrier behind IndiGo and Air India, carried 1.4 million passengers in April, registering a 13.1% market share, according to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).

In addition to domestic routes, SpiceJet, with over 92 aircraft consisting mostly of Boeing 737s, flies to short- and medium-haul international destinations, including Bangkok, Colombo, Dhaka, Muscat, Kabul, Male, Hong Kong, Dubai and Jeddah.

In January 2017, SpiceJet had placed a huge order of 205 Boeing aircraft valued at $22 billion at list prices. This was on top of a previous order for 155 Boeing planes as the airline looked to execute its expansion plans.

“SpiceJet passengers will soon be able to travel to popular destinations across America, Europe, Africa and Middle East, seamlessly on a single ticket," Singh said indicating that the airline could ink more code share deals in the coming days.

In April, SpiceJet had signed an initial pact with Gulf-based Emirates for a code-share partnership, a move that will give wider connectivity to its passengers on the latter’s network across the world.

Meanwhile, Vistara, a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, has leased six more planes from BOC Aviation.

“As part of the agreement, Vistara has leased four Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft to be delivered in May 2019 and two Airbus A320neos powered by CFM LEAP 1A engines, scheduled for delivery in the second half of 2019," Vistara said in a statement.

“In order to support the next phase of expansion of its domestic operations, Vistara has recruited nearly 500 former employees of Jet Airways, including pilots, cabin crew, engineers and other staff," it added.

Vistara, which has about 22 aircraft in its fleet—all Airbus A320s—plans to fly international. “Our focus on serving the domestic market has remained unwavered even as we prepare to become an international airline. These leased aircraft will be deployed to meet the sudden drop in capacity in the market and to aid convenience of travellers," Vistara’s chief executive Leslie Thng said.

“Our decision to induct a different aircraft type in our fleet is a carefully evaluated one, which is both economically and commercially viable, and will eventually help us take the Vistara experience wider and deeper across markets in India," Thng added.

At present, Vistara connects 24 domestic destinations, and has over 850 flights a week.


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