To ensure that the Narendra Modi-led National Democratic Alliance government’s ambitious regional connectivity scheme (RCS) does not turn out to be a damp squib, state-owned Air India plans to lease five turboprop planes—having 40 to 70 seats—by March next year.
The carrier is expected to deploy these planes on unserved and underserved routes the RCS plans to bring to the national aviation grid.
According to a senior Air India executive who requested anonymity, the government is now banking on the national carrier as private carriers are yet to commit to join the RCS scheme which is aimed to bring air travel to remote areas of the country.
At present, the national carrier has five 70-seater ATR 72-600 aircraft, three 48-seater ATR 42-320 turboprop planes and three CRJ700 planes—all on dry lease. It also has 66 narrow-body planes which largely cater to domestic routes and some nearby foreign destinations, and 41 wide-body aircraft, bringing the total count to 118.
The planes to be acquired will be on dry lease, wherein only aircraft is provided by the lessor. However, if crew is also provided by the lessor, then it is called a wet lease.
In May this year, Air India chairman and managing director Ashwani Lohani said the Air India Group will add 100 planes to its current fleet in the next four years by leasing them.
“We have experienced this in the past as well and this is how aviation has grown in India. First, Air India starts flying to any remote area in the country. We (Air India) create demand and private carriers follow,” said the official.
As per the proposed contours, the viability gap funding (VGF) will be available for three years for airlines flying under RCS, followed by a two-year cooling-off period. It will be limited to nine seats for a 12-seater aircraft and a maximum of 40 seats for larger aircraft.
Another Air India executive, who also did not want to be named, said the airline is in talks with various lessors for dry lease of around five small aircraft. Rougned Odor Authentic Jersey