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IndiGo has asked the Civil Aviation Ministry to extend the wet lease period of three B777 wide body aircraft that have been leased from Turkish Airlines to operate more India-Istanbul flights, sources said on Thursday.
Aviation regulator DGCA has allowed India's largest carrier to wet lease the three B777 planes for a period of only six months (the limit mandated under its regulations), sources noted.
IndiGo had first asked the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to permit wet leasing of these three planes for up to two years. However, the regulator refused to give any exemption to the airline from its regulations, sources mentioned.
The DGCA believes that it does not have adequate safety oversight of planes that are operated under wet lease as the entire crew handling them is of the lessor airline and the lessee airline is essentially just issuing tickets, they noted.
As per the 2016 regulations, wet lease from abroad is only permitted in "emergency situations" by the DGCA, and that too for not more than six months.
"Emergency situations cover unexpected grounding of the aircraft of an existing AOP (air operating permit) holder, aircraft under scheduled maintenance or checks or any other unforeseen circumstances," the regulations noted.
Wet lease from abroad is not permitted for "capacity or route expansion" purposes of an existing airline, the regulations mentioned. IndiGo did not respond to Business Standard's request for a statement on the matter.
IndiGo's fleet comprises around 280 planes and all of them are narrow body planes, with only economy class in them. The airline has decided to wet lease three wide body planes, which will have business class in them, from Turkish Airlines so as to operate more flights on India-Istanbul routes.
A wide body plane like B777 has a bigger fuel tank than narrow body aircraft like A320, which allows the former to traverse longer distances.
IndiGo had earlier this month announced that it will start operating flights on Mumbai-Istanbul route from January 1 onwards. The airline is already operating flights on Delhi-Istanbul routes using its narrow body planes.
On October 12, IndiGo had confirmed that it is wet leasing certain planes.
"International air travel is going through a strong period of recovery, and demand continues to rise in the upcoming festive and winter season. This is a positive sign for the industry and IndiGo remains very bullish on strong growth for international travel to and from India in the future," it had mentioned.
However, as the aviation industry globally continues to face significant supply chain disruptions, the airline has been exploring a multitude of solutions to enable us to continue its operations smoothly and to provide its customers with efficient and affordable travel, it had added.
"As an interim measure, we have decided to take on wet/ damp lease certain aircraft to cover the shortfall for our scheduled international operations. We have received an in-principle approval from the regulators for the same and the induction of these aircrafts remains subject to further requisite regulatory approvals," it had mentioned.
Air India had last month announced that it is going to increase its fleet size from 113 to 143 planes by December 2023 by leasing five wide body planes and 25 narrow body planes.
IndiGo already has approximately 60 per cent share in the domestic market. Therefore, the airline is looking to international avenues to sustain its growth momentum.
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First Published: Thu, October 27 2022. 23:49 IST