In its bid to recover from the setback of having to ground 11 aircraft in its fleet owing to engine issues, and to cope with questions related to safety of a section of its fleet, the country’s largest domestic carrier IndiGo is pulling out all stops to expand its fleet by 35 aircraft through a two-pronged approach. First, it now expects to add its earlier planned 15 ATRs (a turbo-prop 78-seater plane) before the end of 2018 calendar. Second, sources said, it has initiated discussions with European airplane maker Airbus to increase its existing scheduled deliveries of 25 A320ceos (current engine option) to 45 A320ceos by March 2019.
The discussions are aimed at helping the airline mitigate its curtailed capacity due to its narrow body aircraft, the A320neos, being withdrawn from service, awaiting engine replacements. It must be noted that aircraft orders and deliveries are usually planned well in advance. The additional 20 aircraft are likely to be provided to IndiGo as part of renegotiation with Airbus, given the exceptional circumstances and the uncertainty regarding the timeline for resolution of the engine problems of the airline’s grounded aircraft.
Sources also said that IndiGo, will now, as an immediate measure, focus on red-eye or late night flights (that arrive early morning), as a move aimed at sweating the existing aircraft in its fleet.
IndiGo did not respond to FE on the subject.
“By the end of this year at least 15 ATRs will be joining the fleet and this will help add capacity to meet some part of the demand post the grounding of the aircraft by the DGCA, till the grounded aircraft are back to flying, along with other measures the airline is already undertaking,” said a source in the airline, not wanting to be identified on how the airline will cope with the supply deficit.
On March 12, the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) had ordered immediate grounding of IndiGo’s A320neos, those which were fitted with a particular series of US engine maker Pratt & Whitney’s PW1100 turbofan engines, forcing the airline operator to cancel a large number of flights. The airline has since cancelled 45 of its 1080 daily flights till March 15. The number of cancelled flights, according to the airline, is now down to 37 per day, and will likely go down further in the coming weeks.
In the meantime, engine maker Pratt & Whitney’s President, Robert F Ludec, while addressing an analyst meet in Florida on March 16, is reported to have assured that all the 43 in-service PW1100G engines (including the ones fitted on GoAir and IndiGo) are undergoing modification by P&W, following operating restrictions imposed on them by European Aviation Safety Agency on February 9, and will return to air by the end of April. Sources aware of the discussions between Pratt & Whitney and IndiGo suggest that the airline will likely be given preference with respect to early delivery of the rectified engines.
By Manisha Singhal