At a time when IndiGo, India’s largest airline by market share, is facing capacity constraints due to performance glitches with the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G-JM engines equipped on its A320neo aircraft, the low-cost carrier has exercised its option to convert a part of its A320neo order with Airbus into the larger A321neo aircraft. The airline has, however, not made any changes to the engine order and its A321neos will be equipped with the same geared turbofan engines.
According to the monthly data of orders and deliveries released by the French airframe manufacturer, IndiGo’s order for the 186-seater Airbus A320neo went down to 405 as of August 31 against 410 a month ago, while the order for 232-seater A321neo went up to 25 compared with 20 aircraft as on July 31. The airline expects to begin taking delivery of the A321neo aircraft “towards the end of calendar year 2018”.
An IndiGo spokesperson said that the airline’s A320neo order with Airbus has the option of switching “certain number of aircraft” to A321neo, which it exercised recently. “Airbus A321neo has 232 seats, while A320neo has around 180, so the operating cost of A321neo is much lower than that of A320. There is no change in the engine order, only the number of seats will increase,” the spokesperson told The Indian Express.
Performance issues on the PW1100G-JM engines, including premature degradation of its combustion chamber and one of the carbon seals, had forced IndiGo to ground as many as nine aircraft on certain days leading to some flight cancellations. In previous analyst calls, the airline’s management pointed out to the operational problems arising due to insufficient availability of aircraft.
For the quarter ended June 2017, IndiGo’s available seat kilometres (ASKs) — a key metric of an airline’s passenger carrying capacity — was 15.1 billion, which was an on-year growth of 18.7 per cent. However, this was lower than the previous capacity guidance given by the company of 22 per cent year-on-year growth in ASKs.
“We are expecting a capacity increase in terms of ASKs of 15 per cent for the second quarter (July-September) and 20 per cent for the full year of fiscal 2018 which is lower than the guidance we had given earlier. The reduction in our capacity guidance is primarily because of the groundings we are currently experiencing on our Neos as well as some delays in Neo deliveries during the year,” IndiGo’s chief financial officer Rohit Philip had said on July 31.