Nicholas Ionides / Singapore


Indian Airlines is being forced to lease more aircraft in a bid to hang on to its dwindling market share, as its government continues to delay approving the proposed purchase of 43 Airbus narrowbodies.

State-owned Indian says it will soon launch a search to lease five more Airbus A320s, with deliveries expected by early next year.

In March last year, Indian selected the A320 family over the Boeing 737 for a fleet modernisation and applied for government approval to conclude a deal for 43 aircraft - 20 A321s, 19 A319s and four A320s. The application for approval to buy new aircraft has remained stalled at government level for nearly 18 months, and there is no indication as to when a decision will be taken.

Indian operates 38 owned and leased A320s and three more leased aircraft are due for delivery this year. The airline's board recently approved a proposal to lease the five additional twinjets to help it compete better with privately owned domestic carriers Air Sahara and Jet Airways. Indian Airlines' domestic market share was estimated at 39.5% in the first four months of this year - down from 42.5% in 2002, while Jet Airways' share increased to 49.8% and Air Sahara's share rose to 10.7%, say local reports.

Indian Airlines says additional aircraft are needed because "we are not in a position to increase our market share on high-density routes" like the private airlines, which have been boosting services and cutting fares.

Source: Flight International