Jet Airways is looking to phase out ATRs, its short-haul regional aircraft, from its fleet completely by 2024.
Jet Airways is looking to phase out ATRs, its short-haul regional aircraft, from its fleet completely by 2024. The ATR is used by the airline to provide regional connectivity to smaller towns and cities.
In the winter schedule starting October, Jet plans to cut routes that use these aircraft using the narrow-body Boeing 737 on some routes, sources familiar with the development said.
Jet’s top management team, including its EVP, flight operations and engineering, Nikhil Ved, met ATR pilots in August to discuss career progression issues as there is discontent among ATR pilots due to planned phasing out of the fleet and also leasing ATRs to a regional carrier. The management assured them of job progression and also that the lease agreement will not “change the employment status of the pilots”.
The fleet plan puts operating ATRs till 2024, the time the last lease of the ATR in Jet’s fleet expires. Jet currently has 18 ATRs in its fleet, of these 15 are the ATR72-500 variants, leases of which are due to expire starting 2021. Seven of these are to be leased to Hyderabad-based regional carrier TruJet, three in October this year, two in January and the remaining in March next year.
Leases of its three unutilised ATRs 72-600 variant expire through 2024. Jet is looking for a buyer for these, sources say, in which case phasing out of ATRs will happen earlier.
Jet’s management had earlier said the airline would look to expand on its Boeing 737 fleet – both the 737
NG and 737MAX-8 – doing away with the complexity of a mix-fleet configuration. Jet’s 120-aircraft fleet is of narrow and wide-body aircraft of Boeing, Airbus and ATRs. It has 225 Boeing 737-MAX on order.
“With the induction of the Boeing 737 MAX over the next several years, there is a significant requirement of experienced commanders and first officers. All existing ATR pilots will be progressed to B737 in a phased manner, as the lease period of ATR aircraft expires,” the management wrote to pilots on August 31 in a communication signed by Capt Khaleel Anwar, chief pilot of the ATR fleet.
Jet did not specify any aircraft replacement plans for ATRs in a response to FE’s mail. The airline said, “Filing process for the winter schedule is on and it would be incorrect to assess the airline’s initial winter schedule on basis of speculation.”
ATRs have been and continue to be an important part of its fleet strategy and future decisions related to its fleet deployment will be made at appropriate time, it added. “The airline continues to offer training and upgrade programmes to its current cockpit crew,” a Jet spokesperson said.
Aviation analysts say Jet should have dropped out of servicing secondary markets where feed to its mainline operations is low. Commenting on the economies of fleet, Saj Ahmad, chief analyst at UK-based StrategicAero Research, said, “A narrow-body vs ATR will generate far more revenue and offer better connection options to city pairs that ATRs don’t have the range for.”
He said Jet may well be looking to monetise the economies of scale of its 737 and 737 MAX fleets and dispensing with ATRs will speed that process up, especially if cities served by ATRs aren’t yielding profits.
Industry experts said the reason why Jet will look at redrawing the ATR fleet plan is because the ATR routes are not making money. “Jet has not been able to stabilise operations on its ATR fleet and this is the reason why ATR operations are becoming unyielding for the airline,” an aviation analyst said.