Even as AirAsia India prepares to apply for a No Objection Certificate to start domestic operations, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways has invested $379 million in India’s Jet Airways. The outlay gives Etihad a 24-percent share in India’s second largest carrier.
The withdrawal of Kingfisher Airlines’ domestic airport slots and international flying rights by India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation on February 25 could make a phased restart of the carrier even more challenging. Meanwhile, authorities have de-registered 13 of the 37 aircraft parked in India, but airports haven’t allowed lessors to claim their assets until Kingfisher pays pending dues totaling $72 million.
“[Kingfisher has] to give some guarantee [to pay], said Airports Authority of India chairman V.P. Agrawal. “Bank checks worth $21 million…bounced. A legal issue is going on.”
India’s fastest growing and most successful airline–budget carrier IndiGo–has become the first victim of an October ruling by the country’s aircraft acquisition committee governing the number and kind of aircraft imported by airlines to encourage regional connectivity to smaller towns. In November the committee, led by civil aviation minister Ajit Singh, cleared for import only five of the 16 Airbus A320-series aircraft Indigo wanted to acquire.
India lost 9 percent of its airline seat capacity as a result of Kingfisher suspending operations since October 1, 2012, when its 66-aircraft fleet was grounded, according to Dinesh Keskar, Boeing’s senior sales vice president for Asia Pacific and India.
Policy-making paralysis over much-needed reforms and liquidity concerns raised by the grounding of Kingfisher Airlines has deterred investors, vendors, lessors and suppliers from doing business in India’s air transport sector, according to delegates attending last month’s Asia-Pacific Airlines Association Assembly of Presidents in Kuala Lumpur. Association calculations show that average profits among Indian airlines amount to just $1 per passenger.
The Indian government has finally given in to demands to ease restrictions on foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country’s struggling airlines. The unexpected September 14 announcement clears the way for foreign carriers to take up to a 49-percent stake in Indian operators, with the exception of government-owned Air India. However, industry and financial analysts indicated to AIN that they view the policy U-turn cautiously, warning that it won’t necessarily mean salvation for cash-strapped carriers.
With leasing companies taking positions on Boeing’s new 737 Max, the Asia-Pacific region holds the key to large narrowbody orders, according to Boeing’s senior vice president of sales for Asia Pacific and India, Dinesh Keskar. “We have three potential customers in India and more in Asia [that can take the Max] on lease or direct buy: Jet Airways, SpiceJet and even Air India Express,” he told AIN. “[The Max] can go 500 additional miles, which will be a big boon for the Asian market.”
Dassault Falcon has named Indian charter operator Taj Air as a Dassault Falcon authorized line service station at Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai. The facility, which is already operational, will provide scheduled and unscheduled maintenance and inspections for all Falcon 2000 models. Initially the facility will serve Indian-registered Falcons; EASA approval is expected early next year. The 35,000-sq-ft facility also offers 24-hour AOG assistance.
Robert Bryant has joined UK-based International Bureau of Aviation as manager of technical projects. He joins the firm from SpiceJet in India, where he was vice president. He has also held senior positions at Air Astana and Al Salam Aircraft and has worked with carriers such as British Airways and Saudia. An IBA spokesman said the consulting firm has seen demand for expert-witness testimony in the field of aircraft maintenance increase 400 percent over the last two years. IBA advises commercial and business aviation clients, aircraft engine manufacturers and operators.
Former All Nippon Airways executive Jason Bitter succeeded Mark Shelton as CEO of Perth, Australia-based Skywest Airlines last month. Shelton abruptly resigned from the post “for personal reasons,” according to Skywest Group executive chairman Jeff Chatfield.
Bitter has held a number of high-level executive positions during his 15 years in the airline industry, including COO of SpiceJet, CEO of Skyeurope and chief executive of Air Arabia Maroc. Most recently, he helped launch ANA’s new low-fare subsidiary, Peach Aviation.