See my earlier post on the IC order.
The reason for hurrying through the order at this stage is that with the divestment of Govt equity in IC put off indefinitely, The Govt is acting quickly to prevent IC from loosing its market share to privately owned competitors.
The Kelkar Commitees recommendation was that IC should have between 90-105 (120-150 seat) aircraft, with a similar number being operated by private carriers. So in that sense, the Govt okaying 40 new aircraft is in line with those recomendations. After this induction is completed over the next 4 years, IC will have around 85 aircraft, including the aircraft retired from pax service.
I also expect more cities to be bought on the airmap. A little known fact is that there are over 370 airports in India of which IC serves only 70. With the arrival of more aircraft, More interior stations are likely to be bought on their route map.
The most immediate need is to replace the older 737-200's (~11) operated by low-fare subsidiary Alliance Air (CD). These are regarded as uneconomical, but they have been retained because of the 737-200's ability to operate out of airports with ill-equipped and short runways like those in the NE. I expect the A319 or A318 to be considered for this segment (around 15).
Some of the A300B2's/B4's are also due for replacement, especially a couple of them which had been used on the punishing 30-60 minute flight schedules. but some of the A300's which had been used on longer hauls are still pretty low-cycle and well maintained, so i expect them to remain in service for some more time. In addition 3 new build A300B4's belonging to AI are being transferred to IC.
The A300's are extremely popular with the travelling public as well as the maintainance and flight crew. And on the domestic metro routes, they are usually packed to the wazoo. Some larger A321's may be ordered to operate these ruotes with more frequency. But IC could consider the A300-600 as well. Perhaps Airbus should SERIOUSLY consider developing an A300NG with a A320 cockpit and FBW? Airbus are u listening?
The A330? That seems unlikely. It would be too heavy to operate these domestic flights that the AB4's operate. But if rumours about IC starting flights to HKG, PER and Cairo are true, then the A330 would make sense.
I also expect around 10 more A320's to be procured. IC has also been planning to procure ATR 42/72 series aircraft for Alliance Air, in order to take on 9W aggresively on some routes. The plan is to operate very high frequency *shuttles* between cities like BOM and PNQ among others. Currently, the 120 mile sector BOM-PNQ is served by 9W (2x 73G, 1XA72) and IC(1x 320). Expect the ATR's to be deployed on these routes.
It is highly unlikely that India would go to Boeing. India has been traditionally closer to the French than to the US. More than Miterrand, the then Indian PM Rajiv Gandhi had plumped majorly for the A320 which is why Airbus won over Boeing which offered the 752. For the trvia minded, Rajiv Gandhi was a line pilot flying 737-200's for IC before he became PM.
Another factor that could lead to a tilt towards Airbus is that Indian companies are doing major work for Airbus. Parts of Airbus 330/340 series aircraft like the Doors and Cargo Hold eqpt are being manufactured by HAL at their Bangalore plant. Infact, if it werent for the touchy British' sensitivities towards things like wing design, HAL may well have started building entire A300's! Airbus is supposed to have considered shifting part of that prodn line here.
So with this kind of relationship I expect most future IC orders to go the Airbus way. Even Air India may opt for Airbus, even though AI has had a strong Boeing lobby inside. I think AI may go for A340-500/600's if the performance issues of these planes ex-DEL are addressed.
Some more points about IC:
IC's market share had in the period between 96-98 dipped below the psychologically important 50% mark, and had actually sunk to an all-time low of42% at one stage. despite the domestic air travel market witnessing a boom, IC couldnt take advantage of it, as it could not add aircraft to its fleet due to the Govt mulling over the privatisation. IC couldnt get finance for new aircraft unless the Govt stood guarantee. The Govt stand was that since it had to be privatised, it was better to leave the fleet decision to the new owners. As a result, private players cashed in on this unprecedented opportunity. The chief beneficiary was Jet Airways (9W) which increased its fleet to around 37 (of which 30 are B737 series). Even a marginal player like Sahara Airlines (S2) (run by a industrial group promoting Gandhian values) increased its fleet to a dozen odd 737 aircraft.
But post 1998, IC has seen a dramatic turnaround in performance. Ontime performance has increased to a record 98% (barring weather related delays), while the corresponding figure for 9W is around 70-80%. Infact in desperation, 9W has resorted to laughable antics like increasing scheduled flight times between 5-20 minutes to show on-time performance! Inflight service, which had been 9W's main selling point, has also improved tremendously on IC, with IC now having a slight lead in the food department.
These measures have ensured that even without new aircraft being added, IC managed to more than gain back its market share, and today holds over 56% of the domestic passenger market, the main loser being 9W.
International routes have played a major role in IC's fightback to profitability. IC operates international flights to all SAARC countries, as well as Burma, Thailand, Singapore, Malaysia in SEA and Kazakhstan,Bishkek,Tashkent in the former CIS, and of course the Middle East where it operates to Ras-al-Khaimah, Dubai, Sharjah, Muscat, Kuwait etc. IC is infact one of the biggest players in the Middle Eastern market, with over 26(?) departures from a station like Sharjah alone. Infact the Gulf-India routing is a major money spinner for IC. Around 22% of its capacity is deployed on the Kerala-Gulf routes(or Lungi flights as we call them!), and it gets them around 40% of revenue!
The main handicap to further development in IC is obviously a lack of aircraft. The money spinning Gulf/SIN routes are being served by pulling out precious aircraft from domestic sectors. While this brings in much need revenue, it has also resulted in a loss of market share domestically. 9W serves just 37 destinations with a fleet of 30 B737's, while IC serves 70 destinations with just 56 jets. This disparity means that 9W has more departures out of profitable Hubs like BOM or BLR than IC. it is this aspect that will be addressed with the fleet augmentation.
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