The country's largest airline IndiGo, which is focusing on internationalisation, has received approval from the civil aviation ministry to wet lease up to two planes for operating flights to the United States and Canada, according to a senior official. For the first time, IndiGo started operating wide-body Boeing 777 on Delhi-Istanbul route in February. The plane has been taken on wet lease from Turkish Airlines.
The airline has received nod from the ministry to wet lease two aircraft that can be utilised on this route. The official, on the condition of anonymity, said on Friday the ministry has also given approval for IndiGo to wet lease up to two wide-body aircraft which can be used for flying to the US and Canada. Queries sent to IndiGo on this issue remained unanswered. It could not be immediately ascertained whether IndiGo has firmed up plans on operating flights to the US and Canada. Indian carriers require approval from the ministry to wet lease aircraft.
Under the wet lease arrangement, planes are leased along with the operating crew and engineers. Generally, wet leasing of planes is allowed for short periods to tackle supply constraints and ensure that airfares do not surge significantly. In an interview to PTI last month, IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers said the airline has always kept the option of wide-body aircraft open but did not divulge specific details.
"IndiGo has never ruled out any option. We do have a significant order book. We have almost 500 aircraft on order... we have a steady stream of deliveries coming. Our focus and emphasis will be on that part. We do have the XLRs order that will further stretch the range of operations for IndiGo," he had said. Meanwhile, IndiGo in a statement said the airline is constantly in talks with the manufacturers as "we plan our next phase of growth" amid reports that it is looking to place a significant order for planes.
"However, we haven't finalised anything till now. We do not comment on speculations and will share information as and when we have an update," the spokesperson said in a statement on Friday. Last month, aviation consultancy CAPA said that IndiGo could place orders for 500 aircraft. IndiGo had been planning to place a significant order of around 300 aircraft prior to COVID-19, but deferred it due to the pandemic. This is now likely to proceed, and could be even larger than previously envisaged, increasing to around 500 aircraft now, it had said.
Currently, IndiGo has more than 300 planes in its fleet. In a separate statement on Friday, IndiGo said its "application with Turkish Airlines is part of our codeshare expansion to offer access to a wider network". According to reports, the airline and Turkish Airlines have sought the US authority's approval for codeshare flights to the US. "We are constantly exploring opportunities to cater to customer demand for air travel to newer geographies," the airline said in the statement.Codesharing allows an airline to book its passengers on its partner carriers and provide seamless travel to destinations where it has no presence.