French small aircraft manufacturer ATR which is partially owned by Airbus is expected to emerge as one of the major aircraft suppliers of the country – especially in the small aircraft space — as domestic airlines will need single aisle aircraft to fly to the small airports in the Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities once the regional connectivity scheme comes into force.
At present, full service airlines like Air India and Jet airways use small aircraft from ATR (ATR 72) while regional aircraft like True Jet has started its operations with aircraft from it.
“We expect to increase our size in India by 150-200 aircraft as some will be used as feeder for the large airlines while the rest will be used as point to point carriers. In India 20% of the total airports have the capacity to accommodate only ATR aircraft,” Patrick de Castelbajac, chief executive officer, ATR, told FE in a telephonic interaction from Toulouse.
The aircraft maker is also in talks with airlines in the country to further expand its base, as the carriers will need more number of smaller aircraft in their fleet to fly to the smaller cities with small airports with a single runway. According to a senior official, Air India is set to induct 25-30 ATR aircraft by 2020 in order to expand its network in cities like Nashik, Durgapur, Gorakhpur and more.
“We are one of the largest customers of ATR in India and with the government’s emphasis on regional connectivity, I think ATR will become one of the largest aircraft suppliers in the country in the next few years,” the official said.
Most of the ATRs are operated by Air India’s subsidiary Allianz Air.
The small aircraft manufacturer is also working with its current customers to provide training to the pilots as Indian carriers need more pilots as they are increasing their capacity.
“All over the world the new routes are first operated by ATR aircraft and things will be same in India. The demand for single aisle aircraft will increase substantially. Our aircraft can be used for carrying passengers and cargo at the same time. Indian middle class population in smaller cities are traveling more to bigger cities for business and leisure. This will increase the demand for air travel to save time,” said Castelbajac.