Jun 1, 2017: India is poised to become the third largest buyer of commercial passenger planes in the world, after US and China, indicated the latest report released by Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), a Sydney-based aviation think-tank.
The aircraft order book of the Indian airline industry is set to touch the 1,080 mark, which would take the ratio of the number of planes ordered for everyone already in service to 2.2 aircraft.
Currently there are around 480 aircraft in the country with a total of 880 planes on order. Most of these orders are reported to be placed by low cost carrier companies such as IndiGo and SpiceJet.
In the coming weeks, full service carriers Jet Airways and Vistara are expected to add to the tally and take the total order placed by Indian carriers to a four-digit number. The 2.2 ratio would be the highest of any major aviation market in the world.
However, out of the expected 1,080 aircraft, more than 700 are scheduled for delivery within the next decade, and 400 within the next five years. This excludes orders yet to be placed and equipment to be taken on lease.
“In addition to the incumbent carriers, it is possible that India might see the entry of 1-2 new large start-ups, including Qatar Airways’ proposed venture. Aircraft induction on this scale will require massive infrastructure development, skilled resources and aircraft financing at a pace that has not been seen before in India,” said the CAPA report. The CAPA report pointed out that airport infrastructure challenges could constrain growth and lead to sub-optimal operations and network economics.
“Parking bays and runway slots will become increasingly scarce over the next few years, especially at metro airports. Signs of congestion are already emerging at Mumbai, Chennai and Delhi and the situation will become more acute unless airports are able to construct 400 parking bays and enhance airside capacity within five years. Otherwise airlines will face challenges in implementing their base and network plans,” the report said.
In March, India became the third-largest domestic aviation market in the world, beating Japan. India’s domestic air passenger traffic stood at 100 million in 2016 and was behind only the US (719 million) and China (436 million).
However, the increase in the demand of airplanes brings major concern of safety risks. “The projected industry growth rates will heighten safety risks due to the regulator being overstretched. Institutional strengthening of the DGCA is a national interest issue. If unaddressed, another downgrade by the FAA (Federal Aviation Administration, US’s civil aviation regulator) cannot be ruled out. India’s regulator, the DGCA, will struggle to provide adequate regulatory oversight for the projected size of the market,” informed the report, adding that the DGCA is already under-resourced and short of expertise to meet current requirements, let alone future growth.
“The increase in airprox incidents (when two aircraft are within 30 seconds of colliding with each other) in the last 12 months is a concern. In addition, it will be stretched by the entry of new operators and equipment as a result of the launch of the Regional Connectivity Scheme. If oversight capabilities are left unaddressed, another FAA downgrade to Category 2 is not out of the question,” it warned.