In a bid to face heightened competition from no-frill carriers and replace its old fleet, Air India has started the process of acquiring 19 new Airbus A-320s, an aircraft that has been its war-horse for domestic operations for over two decades. The increasing competition from nifty low-fare rivals like IndiGo and new carriers like AirAsia is driving Air India strategy.
The national carrier has sought dry-leasing these planes for six years instead of buying them, as part of its Turnaround and Financial Restructuring Plans, airline sources said.
All these 19 new aircraft should have sharklets and be in an all-economy configuration, they said.
The airline has invited global technical and financial bids for dry-leasing these planes, with the technical bids to be opened in September.
Dry lease is a leasing arrangement whereby an aircraft is provided for a limited period without crew or supporting staff, insurance, equipment or maintenance, as against wet lease where these add-ons are also supplied.
Air India was among the launch customers of the A-320s and had bought 31 of them between 1989 and 1993. Again between 2003 and 2010, it purchased 43 planes of the A-320 family -- that is A-320s, A-319s and A-321s.
At present, it has 18 A-320s, of which 12 are owned and six leased, 24 A-319s (19 owned and five leased) and 20 own A -321 aircraft in its fleet.
The sources said the deliveries of these 19 leased aircraft should preferably begin from the fourth quarter of this year when it would require seven of them.
It proposes to acquire four more in 2014-15 and eight more in the next fiscal in a phased manner.
The decision to lease these all-economy aircraft came amid strong indications of a growth in competition from no-frill carriers, as also the entry of AirAsia India in the domestic market.
The sources said the new leased aircraft could also be used to replace the ageing fleet of the same type of planes already in the Air India fleet.