After facing a barrage of criticism from the Indian public and Opposition MPs in Parliament, the Indian Civil Aviation Ministry has finally permitted Indian-Airlines(IC) to go 'full speed ahead' with its fleet renewal programme.
IC has invited Boeing and Airbus to submit their bids. IC is saddled with an ageing fleet, with an average age of 13.5 years, while its arch rivals Jet-Airways(9W) and Sahara Airlines(S2) operate fleets with an average age of 2.5-4 yrs. The oldest acft with IC is a 24 yr old A300, while the newest is a 5 year old A320. As a result, IC has been rapidly losing its share of the domestic market.
Photo © Konstantin Von Wedelstaedt
Photo © Propfreak
Boeing 737-2A8 operated by Alliance
Photo © Propfreak
The initial plan was to boost IC's fleet strength, inline with the Kelkar committees recommendations, to 97 from the current 56, with the addition of A321's and A320's to complement the existing fleet of 30+ A320's. There was also a suggestion to go in for A330's, since IC also was planning to start flights to Frankfurt, from where Air India has since withdrawn. That plan seems to have been put on hold for now.
In the current round, IC is planning to replace its 12 A300's (8 B2's,4 B4's) and 11 B737-200's operated by its low-cost subsidiary Alliance Air. One of the old 732s of Alliance crashed on its final approach into Patna, which prompted this excercise in the first place.
IC is looking at the 737-900's and A321's to replace the A300's. Around 15 are likely to be procured. An IC official told me that there should have been an A322 (an even larger A321), which perhaps shows which way they are likely to go.
For the Alliance Air 737-200's, IC is looking at Boeing 737-600/700, and the Airbus A318/A319. The A318 was the preferred choice, but since the acft will take atleast 2 years to make its first flight, the A319/736's seem to be the forerunners.
The Alliance Aircraft will be single class (Y), while IC aircraft will be 2 class (J & Y). Another requirement for the Alliance order, would be the ability to operate from short runways like at Gwalior, Indore, Bhopal and Khajuraho. I am not sure of the A318/A319's ability to do this.
Ever since Jet Airways introduced Shuttle flights using ATR-72's, The Govt has been putting pressure on IC to procure ATR-42's for high frequency Shuttle flights. IC has been reluctant to do so, saying that it 'dilutes their focus'.
The Indian Govt. has signed some deal for licence production of ATR-42/72 series of aircraft in India.
As an interim measure, IC is going to immediately procure A320's, A321's and 737-200/400's on short term dry-leases to replace the 6 of oldest 732's and the A300's.
IC's A300 fleet has apparently been (or is being) sold to some Courier/Parcel service in the US, and these aircraft will soon be sent to the UK for conversion into Freighters.
A300B2/B4 - 12
A320-200 - 30
B737-200 - 11
Dornier 228-212 - 3
Total - 56