By Anu Sharma, Mihir Mishra
NEW DELHI: IndiGo, India’s largest domestic carrier, is in talks with aircraft makers to buy up to 20 wide-body aircraft as it seeks to expand its international operations, three people familiar with the matter said.
This will be the first time Interglobe Aviation Ltd, the operator of the IndiGo airline, will be ordering wide-body aircraft. The airline operates a fleet of Airbus 320 family aircraft and smaller ATR aircraft. It also currently operates a fleet of Boeing 777 aircraft, on wet lease from Turkish, between India and Istanbul. A wet lease involves leasing an aircraft, along with its crew.
“IndiGo will be inducting around 15-20 wide-body aircraft. The airline has been in discussions with aircraft manufacturers Airbus and Boeing for at least one year. It is expected to place an order this year itself,” one of the people cited above said.
While it was a question of whether the airline would enter the wide-body aircraft segment to tap long-haul destinations, it is now a question of the timing of placing the aircraft order for the larger planes, he added. The aircraft order by IndiGo may not be as large as that of Air India, which made history by placing a record 470 aircraft order in February, including 70 wide-body aircraft.
A second person added that the airline had ordered Airbus 321 XLRs, which can fly to Amsterdam from India, but can join the fleet only in 2025, and that is far. “If IndiGo was to place a wide-body aircraft order now, it may get it in even six months. The delivery timeline of the longer-range A321XLR of IndiGo is delayed to 2025. It makes sense if the airline wants to induct wide-body, bridge that capacity gap, and tap low-cost international flying at the same time,” the third person said. IndiGo’s aggressive international plans have come to the forefront ever since the airline brought in the former president of KLM airline, Pieter Elbers as chief executive in September.
“As a policy, we do not comment on any speculation. As shared previously, we have a strong pipeline with close to 500 planes already on order to be delivered before the end of the decade,” the airline said in an email response to a query. Established in 2006, IndiGo has so far been a low-cost carrier operating a fleet of narrow-body aircraft which can seat around 222 passengers.
As of December 2022, its fleet had 302 planes, including 288 planes on operating lease and 14 owned. The Gurguram-based airline has 160 Airbus A320neo, 23 A320ceo, 78 A321neo, 39 ATR and two Airbus 321 freighters. For IndiGo, another 480 jets, largely narrow-body aircraft and some turboprop jets, are in the pipeline, which will be inducted just before 2030. This order by IndiGo will come as a shot in the arm for the government, which has been asking airlines to order wide-body aircraft and connect destinations in Europe and the Americas with India directly.
The government’s plan is to reduce dependence on foreign airlines, which connect these destinations through their hubs in the Middle East and Southeast Asia. “It is important for me to give every avenue possible to my customer that means certainly look at international airlines and increasing their footprint into India… but also look at our domestic flag carriers growing their footprint internationally, which is why I have been stressing to our airlines that we need to induct greater wide-body aircraft so that we can cross the seven seas and supplant our footing and make our mark there,” civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said in an interview recently.