New Delhi: Six months after the collapse of Jet Airways due to a lack of funds, India’s civil aviation sector seems to be getting back on its feet. According to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, the number of aircraft in the country is back up over 600, after having gone down to 530 when Jet’s fleet was grounded.
DGCA chief Arun Kumar said: “The aviation sector has recovered fast after Jet Airways’ closure in April, which was a disaster. From February onward, Jet Airways had started losing its fleet and by April, we were left with only about 530 planes.”
However, according to Kumar, there are now 608 aircraft in the country, and the number is expected to touch at least 640 by December-end.
“We’ve managed to come out of the Jet Airways disaster in less than four months. There are 608 planes in the sky now, and the number is expected to go up this year. We are hoping that it will touch 640 in December,” he said.
How did this recovery happen?
According to the DGCA, the transfer of Jet’s planes to airlines such as SpiceJet and Vistara is the primary factor behind the recovery. In fact, almost all airlines except Air India have managed to increase their fleet since April.
SpiceJet added around 40 planes to its fleet since April, while IndiGo added 26 planes between May and October. Vistara added nine aircraft and GoAir added five.
A senior DGCA official told ThePrint: “Distribution of planes that were with Jet Airways and slots to other airlines has resulted in the recovery. If the Boeing 737 MAX planes are cleared to fly again by the end of the year, that will further boost the numbers.”
The 737 MAX has been grounded around the world after two fatal crashes, and Boeing has been reviewing its safety aspect. The DGCA had grounded the type on 13 March, days after an Ethiopian Airlines crash killed 157 people, and a few months after a Lion Air 737 MAX crashed in Indonesia, killing 180 people.
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IndiGo currently has 244 planes in its fleet, but received none of Jet’s old planes, since the defunct airline used Boeing planes and IndiGo exclusively uses Airbus (apart from a few ATR turboprop aircraft).
However, it did get 120 Jet Airways slots — a date and time at which an airline’s planes are permitted to depart or arrive at an airport. This resulted in an increase of 26 flights in the last five months.
An IndiGo spokesperson told ThePrint: “We had only 218 planes in our fleet in April but we now stand at 244 planes.”
SpiceJet, also a Boeing customer, now operates 31 planes that belonged to Jet. However, it has also added new planes to its fleet, taking the total to 113.
A SpiceJet spokesperson told ThePrint: “We had taken these ex-Jet planes from lessors. We have managed to add 40 planes, including the ex-Jet ones.”
Air India has 169 planes in its fleet. Although it did not get any Jet Airways planes, it did get some important Jet slots.
Air India has launched flights on new routes in the past five months, without adding any planes. According to an Air India spokesperson, the flag-carrier is working to bring back 19 of its planes which have been grounded for maintenance for the past six months.
Vistara currently has 32 aircraft — 23 Airbus A320s and nine Boeing B737-800 NGs. It has leased nine Boeings that were with Jet and one new Airbus A320. It also received some Jet slots.
Vistara is now qualified to fly international routes. Asked what expansions it plans to make for this, an airline spokesperson said: “Last year, we placed an order for 56 new aircraft, which is a combination of purchased and leased aircraft from Airbus and Boeing. Some of the deliveries are expected in the current financial year. This will include two of the six Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners that we have purchased. Vistara will have over 40 aircraft in its fleet by the end of 2019.”
GoAir has 53 aircraft in its fleet, none of which were formerly owned by Jet Airways.
This takes the total number of planes to 611, to which DGCA chief Kumar said this is indeed the number of aircraft registered to Indian airlines, of which 608 are currently in the skies.
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