Stopgap move: Why govt changed wide-body aircraft wet lease policy for Indian airlines

NEW DELHI: The Modi government has doubled the period for which Indian airlines can wet lease (hire with operating crew) wide body aircraft from six months to a year as a “stopgap” measure due to supply chain issues being faced by the aviation industry.
With dozens of planes grounded, awaiting engines and components, and supply of ordered new aircraft affected from original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), desi airlines with mega growth plans — IndiGo and Tata group Air India and Vistara — were unable to spread their wings fast post-Omicron while travel demand is back with a bang.
This policy change by the Jyotiraditya Scindia-headed Union aviation ministry will allow them to provide more direct connectivity from India to rest of the world on wide body aircraft till they can get their ordered planes and/or have adequate trained crew to dry lease planes.
Minister Scindia on Monday spoke to TOI about the wide body wet lease policy change. “It’s a very dynamic environment in the aviation industry. For last 2.5 years (Covid time), a vast majority of planes were parked on ground with hardly any passengers. Suddenly coming from this starved scenario, the sector immediately flipped into a frenzied scenario with revenge travel happening all across the world. This phenomenon has not been witnessed at least in the last 20-30 years,” he said.
“So planes that were grounded for so long are in a situation where they can’t fly enough. The demand for travel has grown and there is no supply of planes. Understandably, aircraft majors slowed down their pipelines thinking that there will be a slack in demand while suddenly we had a flood (globally).”
“Therefore we are stuck in a very strange situation where we have airports, airlines that want to fly more but we can’t obtain enough planes. So, as a stopgap arrangement in the interim of airlines getting their fleet (as per their aircraft orders) we relaxed the wet lease environment to provide the required connectivity,” Scindia said.
The minister has been pushing for more wide body aircraft with Indian carriers so that they can provide point to point international connectivity from India. At the moment, a majority of travel between India and rest of the world happens via nearby hubs like those in the Gulf, Sri Lanka and Southeast Asia on the home airlines of those places.
“If I don’t provide that flexible environment for our airlines to grow, then how is that going to be possible? That’s why we took this decision. Some of our airlines like Air India, IndiGo and Vistara have very strong and healthy fleet acquisition programmes. Other airlines are looking at this as a stop gap till the time they receive their aircraft. It will provide a good avenue for growth in the immediate term until our airlines get their aircraft on dry lease or on purchase so that they can fly their routes,” Scindia said.
Following the policy change, IndiGo can now wet lease two twin aisles to operate flights between Delhi/Mumbai and Istanbul for a year. As per current bilateral between India and Turkey, airlines of both countries can operate a daily between Delhi and Istanbul; and Mumbai and Istanbul.
With the two allowed Boeing 777s that IndiGo will lease from Turkish Airlines, it can operate the two allowed daily flights to Istanbul from Delhi and Mumbai instead of doing so on the single aisle Airbus A320 family of planes. Wet leasing more wide body aircraft, beyond these two, will be allowed only if IndiGo uses them to operate nonstops between India and distant places like North America or UK.
Similarly other Indian airlines, currently operating only single aisles, can now look at this route for expanding their wings abroad till they can do so on dry leased or owned planes. As of now, only Air India and Vistara operate twin aisles.

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