NEPC AIRLINES, one of India's fastest-growing private carriers, has bought rival Damania Airways for some $33.3 million.

It is unclear whether Damania will remain a separate company, or be merged with NEPC, which operates five Fokker F27s on feeder routes in southern India. Merger seems more likely since, under Indian civil-aviation guidelines, private airline or air taxi licences are not transferable.

Damania, which operates on main routes in western India, is believed to have fallen behind recently with lease payments to Portuguese-based PLM Leasing, from which it leases two of its four Boeing 737-200s. Damania has not acquired additional aircraft, despite the Government giving the go-ahead recently to purchase a Boeing 737-400.

Meanwhile, another leading private carrier, East West Airlines has embarked on a major expansion drive, with plans to introduce five new Boeing 737-400s, and establish a maintenance unit in Madras. The company has a fleet of seven Boeing 737-200s and three Fokker F-27s.

Jet Airways is also planning to lease a further six aircraft to add to its seven 737-200s and three F27s. The airline is likely to opt for the 737-400, say local sources.

Source: Flight International