Air India Express is working on a major expansion in its operations in the Middle East, after the airline received government approval to buy three aircraft, a senior executive of the airline has said.
“Air India Express has been given permission recently to acquire 3 new aircraft. We will soon be floating tenders for acquisition of them,” the Air India Express executive, who did not wish to be identified, told Arabian Business.
“The fleet expansion will be used to expand our operations in the Gulf sector,” the airline executive added.
The airline is understood to be going for acquisition of Boeing 737 800 NG aircraft, as it wants to maintain single fleet type.
“Maintaining single fleet aircraft is necessary to save costs on engineering, maintenance and pilot training,” the airline executive said.
Airline industry sources, however, said Air India Express may have to go for second-hand 737 800 NG aircraft if it wants to induct the aircraft on an urgent basis, as Boeing currently has a long order book position for this aircraft model.
With its 737 MAX series continue to be grounded, several airlines which have ordered for MAX planes have changed their orders to Boeing 737 800 NG, prolonging the delivery period for this aircraft model, industry sources said.
Air India Express operates majority of its flights to various destinations in Middle East from multiple Indian cities.
Significantly, Air India Express’ move to beef up its Gulf operations comes after it was forced to put its ambitious expansion plans in the Middle East on hold in August last year, because of the Indian government’s decision to pursue privatisation of Air India.
Unlike Air India, Air India Express is a profit making airline – its half-yearly profit for FY 20 is understood to be about $74 million.