Aviation

Regional connectivity: AI, SpiceJet have right planes, MoCA feels

DELHI: The first set of regional flights may come from Air India and SpiceJet, as the aviation ministry feels these two already have suitable aircraft in their fleet to be the launch airlines for its project to provide air connectivity to towns and small cities, reports The Economic Times.

“Bigger jets will not be able to fly these regional routes, but airlines with smaller aircraft can … If Air India increases utilisation of its smaller aircraft, they can surely fly these routes. SpiceJet has also made inquiries about the scheme. Both these airlines will get exclusive rights on that particular route for a period of three years,” aviation minister Ashok Gajapati Raju told ET, when asked about the participation by these carriers.

While Alliance Air, the regional subsidiary of Air India, operates a fleet of 70-seat ATRs, SpiceJet has similar-sized Bombardier Q400 aircraft.

A need for support from these airlines was felt after the government realised that it would be difficult for any new carrier to lease aircraft due to problems with airlines in India. “Leasing costs for Indian carriers were pushed up due to the Kingfisher Airlines issue (the airline went bust and it took months for lessors to take back aircraft).So, we need to provide a comfort level to these lessors in terms of allowing them to deregister aircraft (and reposes them) when the payments are not coming. They cannot be held at ransom,” said Raju.

Analysts, though, don’t agree with the plan to use 70-seat aircraft to make the scheme a success. “Regional connectivity can only be successful with 15 or 20-seater aircraft and it does not make sense for a 70-seater aircraft to be used for regional connectivity ,” said Mark Martin, founder and CEO of Martin Consulting, an aviation consultancy firm.

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