Jet Airways in India plans to order more aircraft to expand its fleet as the carrier prepares to fend off competition from AirAsia, Asia’s biggest budget airline that seeks to start operations in the country this year.
Jet Airways is considering an order for Boeing 737 planes, K.G. Vishwanath, the Mumbai-based carrier’s vice president of commercial strategy, told analysts in a conference call Monday. He didn’t disclose the number of aircraft or a time frame.
Jet, which has agreed to sell a stake to Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, will boost domestic seat capacity by as much as 8 percent a year as it takes delivery over three years of 46 aircraft ordered with Boeing earlier, Vishwanath said.
The number of airline passengers in India may triple to 180 million by 2021, the government has forecast, as more people are shunning trains for plane rides.
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“They definitely need more aircraft,” said Harsh Vardhan, chairman of New Delhi-based Starair Consulting. “Jet has to fight for market share. With Etihad on board, they’ve the resource to do that.”
Carriers in India will need 1,450 new airplanes worth $175 billion over the next 20 years, Boeing has forecast.
The International Air Transport Association has said India may become the world’s fastest-growing aviation market after Kazakhstan by 2016.
In the past seven years, India airline passenger traffic more than doubled to about 60 million annually. In comparison, the Indian Railways carries 23 million travelers every day on its network.
Jet Air, the nation’s biggest listed carrier, may buy 50 737 MAX and about 10 777-300ER planes from Boeing and order 50 Airbus A320neos at the Paris Air Show, the CAPA Centre for Aviation, a Sydney, Australia-based consulting company, said this month. The Paris Air Show begins June 17.
Jet Air, which started operations in 1993, has a fleet of 100 aircraft, according to the company’s website.
Jet Air will focus on increasing services to Abu Dhabi by adding more direct flights to the emirate from smaller Indian cities, Vishwanath said.
The carrier will also look at expanding services to Europe with new direct flights.
Starting in 2015, Jet Air will take deliveries of 10 on-order Boeing 787s to expand international operations, according to Vishwanath.