The civil aviation ministry has allowed Indian carriers to take wide-body planes on wet lease for up to one year as it pursues efforts to make the country a key international hub for air traffic.
A senior ministry official on Sunday, November 27 said the rules have been relaxed and airlines that seek to operate wide-body planes will be permitted to operate such aircraft on wet lease for up to one year. Till now, wet leasing of wide-body planes was allowed only for up to six months.
The country’s largest airline IndiGo on Sunday, November 27 said it approached the ministry and has received a communication conveying the ministry’s approval to allow Indian carriers to wet/damp lease aircraft for six months extendable by another six months.
IndiGo, which planned to wet-lease three Boeing 777-300ER aircraft from Turkish Airlines, had requested the civil aviation ministry to allow for a two-year lease instead of six months. The government has partially accepted this demand.
IndiGo would be able to fly two wet-leased planes according to its network, but wet leasing of additional planes would be permitted only if the airline operates direct flights to Europe or the US.
“Such relaxation shall be available to all Indian carriers on their specific request and the ministry will consider the same based on international destinations that the airline intends to operate. We have plans for inducting B777 aircraft on wet/damp lease basis during the current winter schedule. We are currently working on finalising the contract for the wet/damp lease.”IndiGo
Last month, aviation regulator DGCA permitted IndiGo to wet lease wide-body Boeing planes from Turkish Airlines for up to six months. Under the wet lease arrangement, planes are leased along with the operating crew and engineers. In a wet lease, the lessor provides pilots and takes care of maintenance, and insurance for the aircraft for the duration of the lease.
Last month, IndiGo announced flights on the Mumbai-Istanbul route from January 1. These would be in addition to the New Delhi-Istanbul flights, which operate with Airbus A320/A321Neo type aircraft. These Airbus aircraft have lower payload and range than the Boeing 777 aircraft. As such, in the past, the airline has had to offload baggage or take a technical halt on the Istanbul route because of prevailing wind conditions.
With the wet lease of Boeing 777-300ER aircraft, seat capacity between India and Turkey will nearly double. It will also benefit Turkish Airlines as its growth in India is restricted under the existing bilateral air service agreement.
IndiGo and Turkish Airlines have had a codeshare partnership (a marketing arrangement that allows airlines to sell seats on each others’ flights) since 2018. Last week, IndiGo announced code share on 19 Turkish Airlines-operated flights to Portugal and Switzerland.
“We have witnessed a huge demand for travel from India to Turkey, Switzerland, and Portugal. Keeping customer demand in mind, we now offer 19 connecting flights through Istanbul to destinations like Geneva, Lisbon, Porto, and Basel. This will not only enhance international connectivity, but also add capacity on these routes and make travel more affordable,” said Vinay Malhotra, head of global sales, IndiGo.Vinay Malhotra, Head of Global Sales, IndiGo
The ministry official said Indian airlines that seek to operate planes on wet lease to the United States and Europe will be permitted to continue with that arrangement for up to one year. The idea of allowing wet leasing of planes for a longer period will help Indian carriers to operate more wide-body aircraft.
Air India, which was acquired by Tata group in January this year, is being stabilised and will take more time before they acquire more wide-body planes, the official added. For now, Air India is dry leasing planes as it expands operations.
With more wide-body aircraft being operated by Indian carriers, they will be able to ferry more passengers and ultimately that will help the country become a key international hub for air traffic in the coming years, the official said.
Generally, wet leasing of planes is allowed for short periods to tackle supply constraints and ensure that airfares do not surge significantly.