Flag carrier Air India is mulling leasing ten Dornier aircraft from Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd to boost its regional operations as the government looks to make flying more affordable under the ambitious UDAN scheme. State-owned HAL is already making the Dornier 228 planes under licence from Swiss technology company RUAG for the defence forces and European markets. To evaluate the feasibility of inducting a new type of jetliner into its fleet, Air India has set up three committees and a final decision on the matter would be taken after receiving reports from the panels, the airline’s Chairman and Managing Director Ashwani Lohani said.
Currently, the government-owned carrier operates aircraft manufactured by Boeing, Airbus, Bombardier and ATR.
“We have set up three committees, one each from finance, operations and engineering. These committees will study all aspects of the proposal and any decision (whether to lease or not to lease) will be based on the outcome of their reports,” Lohani said.
However, he did not divulge further details.
Air India, which has turned operationally profitable last fiscal after nearly a decade, would operate more regional flights through Alliance Air.
Alliance Air, which mostly connects Tier II and III cities to metro hubs, currently flies to 34 destinations and has 39 daily departures.
Under the ambitious regional air connectivity scheme named UDAN (Ude Desh Ka Aam Naagrik) launched last month, Civil Aviation Ministry has listed three categories of aircraft — those having less than 20 seats, 21-80-seaters, and 80 seats or more.
HAL’s 19-seater Dornier 228 could be useful for civil operations with certain modifications, an official said.
According to the official, both Air India and HAL are currently in discussions for a possible leasing of 10 such planes for operating flights under UDAN.
“At least 10 Dornier 228 are expected to be inducted on lease,” the official said, adding a final decision on the issue would be taken before the end of this fiscal.
UDAN seeks to provide air connectivity to un-served and under-served airports, especially in small cities, as well as make flying more affordable for the masses.
Fares of half of the seats operated in a particular flight of one-hour duration under UDAN would be capped at Rs 2,500. The cap would be applicable for distance of 476-500 kilometres.
Government expects the first flight under the regional connectivity scheme by early next year and is pinning hopes on Air India for the successful take off of UDAN.