Oct 31, 2018, 07.45 AM IST
Sources : economictimes.indiatimes.com
MUMBAI: IndiGoNSE 4.34 % has asked aircraft manufacturer ATR to defer deliveries of its turboprop planes due to a shortage of pilots, said two people aware of the development, the first such postponement by the airline.
India’s biggest airline by market share signed a pact for 50 ATR 72-600 planes last year. It had received 12 planes as of September and was supposed to get 20 by January.
“The airline was supposed to get the deliveries at the rate of one and two every alternate month,” said one of the people. “They will be taking much less now.” The person didn’t say how many planes IndiGo plans to take now. An IndiGo spokesperson said the airline does not “comment on any speculative news” but said aircraft delivery schedules are “often subject to change.”
A senior IndiGo executive confirmed the airline faces a shortage of pilots for ATR planes, but didn’t comment on whether it is looking at deferring deliveries. He insisted on anonymity. A spokesperson at ATR didn’t respond to queries till press time.
Pilots, especially commanders, for ATR planes are scarce primarily because the Franco-Italian plane maker has a limited market share in India. ATRs had burst on to the scene in 2003 with the advent of GR Gopinath’s Air Deccan, which brought low fare aviation into India and led to a boom. Air Deccan was sold to Vijay Mallya’s now-grounded Kingfisher AirlinesNSE -11.11 % in 2008 following which there was a lull in regional aviation. Air India and Jet Airways use a handful of ATRs for regional
ATR made a second significant entry into India last year with IndiGo’s order. The airline is said to have aggressively poached pilotsfrom Jet and Air India, but not apparently enough to make a sufficient pool for incoming deliveries.
ATR pilots are the highest paid in India, but there is an industrywide paucity. In fact there is a paucity of trained commanders on any plane but it is more intense for aircraft such as ATRs that have a smaller presence,” said Sanjay Mandavia, founder of Flight Simulation Technique Centre, which has the only certified simulators for ATRs in India.
Southern carrier Trujet, another user of ATRs, has expatriates accounting for 80% of its crew, said managing director V Umesh. “This won’t always be the case as we are training homegrown first officers to be promoted to captains and building our own pool.” Meanwhile Jet Airways, which has 16 ATRs, has grounded three and aims to take six out of operation in the next few months as the cash-strapped airline seeks to curtail operations, said a person aware of the matter.
For IndiGo, a slowdown in deliveries may be a blessing in disguise. The airline pressed its first ATR into service in December. It entered markets operated by SpiceJetNSE 0.00 % offering more flights than its rival at attractive fares. SpiceJet responded with its own capacity expansion. As a result, ticket prices fell by up to 40%, making it a less lucrative proposition than it had earlier seemed.