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Growing airline fleet in India bucks Covid distress trend

As per information provided in the Economic Survey for 2021-22, tabled before Parliament on Friday, the total fleet strength of Indian carriers increased to 713 as of November 2020, compared to 669 as of March 2020.

Written by Pranav Mukul | New Delhi |
Updated: January 31, 2021 9:59:14 am
Covid distress, India airline fleet, Economic Survey, budget, economy news, Indian express newsAirframe maker Airbus said that it delivered 57 aircraft in 2020 to Indian carriers. (Representational)

Induction of 44 new aircraft by India’s largest airline IndiGo — the highest delivered to any single airline by French manufacturer Airbus in 2020 across the globe — and a three-fold increase in number of dedicated air freighters to 20 ensured that India’s fleet strength number bucked the trend of aviation industry’s poor performance in a year marked by the Covid-19 pandemic. As per information provided in the Economic Survey for 2021-22, tabled before Parliament on Friday, the total fleet strength of Indian carriers increased to 713 as of November 2020, compared to 669 as of March 2020.

This was in variation with most major indicators such as passenger traffic, cargo tonnage, deployed capacity and airline revenues, which buttressed the fact that 2020 was the worst year for the aviation sector in history.

Airframe maker Airbus said that it delivered 57 aircraft in 2020 to Indian carriers, of which 44 were to IndiGo. In addition to this, IndiGo also inducted ATR turboprop planes. “We are honoured to have delivered 57 aircraft to our customers in India in 2020, which was a little over 10 per cent of all Airbus commercial aircraft deliveries for the year … This shows the intrinsic strength and resilience of the Indian commercial aviation sector. It also demonstrated our ability to adapt quickly … we remain cautiously optimistic as we begin 2021, although challenges and uncertainties remain high,” Remi Maillard, president & MD, Airbus India & South Asia told The Sunday Express. The remaining aircraft by Airbus were delivered to airlines such as Vistara and GoAir.

Globally, Airbus delivered 566 aircraft in 2020, down from 863 in 2019. Vistara also took deliveries of two Boeing 787 wide-bodied planes from the American plane-maker during the year — the first of which was delivered in February. In addition to passenger aircraft, airlines such as SpiceJet also continued to expand their cargo fleets given the disproportionate fall in capacity when compared with the fall in demand for air cargo transport. In August 2020, SpiceJet inducted the Airbus A340 aircraft its first wide-bodied cargo aircraft. With this induction, SpiceJet’s dedicated freighter fleet had nine aircraft comprising five Boeing 737s, three Bombardier Q-400s and one Airbus A340. Between then and December, the airline inducted eight more freighter planes. It continued to take in more planes well into the new year and added two more wide-bodied freighters — Boeing 767 and Airbus A330 — to its fleet in January. After the inductions of these two planes, the company’s total cargo fleet size increased to 19, including five wide-body aircraft.

Apart from SpiceJet, logistics firm BlueDart operates a fleet of six Boeing 757 wide-bodied aircraft in the country. Meanwhile, the Economic Survey predicted that air passenger travel and aircraft movements would reach pre-Covid level in early 2021 “as a result of swift and decisive interventions and effective measures put in place by the government”. Currently, these numbers are operating at around 70 per cent of pre-Covid level. The government has imposed a restriction allowing airlines to operate only 80 per cent of their scheduled flight capacity on the domestic sectors.

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