India’s new civil aviation policy which seeks to increase tickets sold from 80 million presently to 300 million by 2022 may help the newly rolled-out Irkut MC-21 jetliner find customers from among airlines operating in India.
The National Civil Aviation Policy seeks to increase air connectivity, allow new domestic airlines to fly abroad quickly and open up the skies for European and South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) countries. Unlike earlier when carriers had to wait five years to fly on international routes, they will now be able to fly abroad after operating at least 20 planes or 20 per cent of their flying capacity on domestic routes.
The policy also seeks to connect smaller towns and cities in India by developing both new airports and improving existing ones. All this is expected to increase the demand for aircraft substantially.
Irkut Corp of Russia which plans to enter the world market with its 211-seat MC-21-300 ahead of the 165 seat MC-21-200 aircraft may have done the right thing considering the potential demand for airline seats in India.
According to the CAPA Center of Aviation, India already is the fastest growing aviation market in the world with 20% year-on-year growth. The new policy is expected to provide further thrust to this growth.
With both Airbus and Boeing having strong backlogs of deliveries among Indian carriers particularly in the narrow-body A320 and 737 segments, the demand for new aircraft will only grow.
Irkut Corp is planning the MC-21-300 first flight next year and commence deliveries to its customers in 2018-19. It claims a firm order book of 175 aircraft mostly from Russian airlines.
In terms of international orders, it has a signed up for six aircraft from Egypt Air with five options. Azerbaijan Airlines has tentatively signed to lease 10 Irkut MC-21-300s from Russia’s Ilyushin Finance, an especially created leasing company. The aircraft would be delivered over the course of 2019-20, the leasing company states.
Irkut is hoping to attract airlines to its aircraft by offering 30-40 extra seats at a cost that is slightly lower than that of 170-190 seat aircraft such as the A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX7. It is also hoping to grab market share from the 240-seat A321neo and the 220-seat Boeing 737 MAX9 with a claimed lower cost-per-seat than the two competitors.
However, it remains to be seen if this will be enough to break the Airbus-Boeing duopoly which has had a stranglehold on the medium haul market in the 160-200 seat category aircraft for decades.
“Our cost of acquisition, cost of operation and cost of maintenance will be significant lower than that of the competition. This is because we have thought of incorporated it while designing the plane”, Kyrill Budayev, Vice President, Marketing and Sales, Irkut Corporation said at the roll-out ceremony.
“We have attempted to create an eco-system where an ordinary Indian can start flying. India has 35 crore (350 million) middle-class citizens but the number of tickets sold is only eight crore (80 million). It’s a pity that middle-class Indians with reasonable amount of disposable income are not able to fly once in four years,” Civil Aviation Secretary R.N. Choubey told The Hindu in an interview. The government expects the number of tickets sold to go up to 30 crore by 2022, Mr. Choubey added.