India's Kingfisher Airlines is finalising another widebody aircraft order with Airbus that it expects to announce at the Paris air show.
Kingfisher chairman Vijay Mallya said in an interview at this week's International Air Transport Association annual general meeting in Vancouver: "Kingfisher needs more widebodies for 2009-10, partly because of the delay in the A380s.
© Airbus S.A.S. 2005
Additional orders for the A340-500 to be announced
"There will be another widebody order. I am looking for aeroplanes that can go non-stop from India to the East Coast of the United States.
We already have aircraft on order [Airbus A340-500s] that can make it to the West Coast, so this is the next requirement."
Mallya indicates the A340-600 is the aircraft it is likely to order and an announcement is expected at the Paris air show this month.
Kingfisher currently operates domestic flights only, but has been seeking rights to operate international services. It has already ordered A340-500s, A330s, A350s and A380s.
© Airbus S.A.S.
The airline wants more widebodies "partly" due to the A380 delays
Mallya said: "Kingfisher needs more widebodies for 2009-10, partly because of the delay in the A380s."
He is "very optimistic" the Indian government will give it approval to operate international services soon.
Current rules state that an airline must have operated for at least five years before launching international services, which means Kingfisher will not be eligible to do so until at least May 2010.
However, Mallya expects the government to waive this requirement soon, enabling it to launch international services next year.
In addition, Kingfisher's parent the UB Group recently agreed to buy at least 26% of rival Air Deccan, which launched services in the second half of 2003 and which will be eligible to operate international services from the second half of next year.
Mallya expects UB Group will meanwhile secure majority ownership of Air Deccan through a public offer it will soon be making.
"I will probably end up with more than 50%," he said, adding that he will "be offering a good premium" to shareholders through the public offer.
Mallya controlled UB Group's acquisition of 26% of Air Deccan through the purchase of new shares will make it the biggest single shareholder of the low fare, no frills operator, which has been running short of cash.
Indian market rules specify that UB Group must make a public offer for at least 20% more at the same price that it paid for the new shares, and this offer will be launched soon.
Air Deccan and full service operator Kingfisher have both said the two airlines will remain separate for at least the "near future", but Mallya is not ruling out a full merger at some point, saying: "That is something that I have to figure out. We are looking at several different models.
"Today we are India's largest airline combined with 33% market share. We have 537 daily flights to 69 destinations. Right away there will be synergies. We are going to integrate all the back-end office stuff first."
He said "the important thing" is that Air Deccan "is not going to operate at a loss any more", and almost immediately its fares will be increased to "rational levels".
He added: "Kingfisher and Air Deccan will be able to control costs very well. Operating costs will both come down even more."