PIA is now not great enough to fly with, but Indian airlines are expanding

PIA is now not great enough to fly with, but Indian airlines are expanding


Akas Air is reportedly close to order around 150 narrow-body Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

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LAHORE/NEW DELHI (Web Desk) – Our Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), our national flag carrier is unable to fly. It is experiencing a nosedive for decades with no hope in practical terms to recover. Being a top lossmaking state-owned enterprise, its privatisation is on the cards. There are very limited chances of any organised resistance to the move – also demanded by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) – this time round given the gravity of the crisis it has been facing.

Read more: Ethiopian Airlines and PIA: A tale of two Third World state-owned entities

But things are quite different in the region with the top airlines in Gulf States expanding their operations by buying a large number of new aircraft both from Boeing and Airbus. They are also establishing new ones – mainly budget carriers – so that passengers from different classes are covered.

Read more: Emirates, flyDubai order planes worth over $50bn

Same is the case with India where Reuters says budget carrier Akasa Air is set to close an order for around 150 Boeing 737 MAX narrow-body planes, two sources said, its latest bid to tap the travel boom in the world's fastest-growing aviation market.

The latest possible new contract comes after other Indian airlines went for hundreds new planes, as constantly expanding upper middle and middle classes along with the addition millionaires due to economic growth means more money to spare, more leisure time and more travellers.

Contract negotiations are ongoing and a deal is expected to be announced at Wings India, the country's largest civil aviation event scheduled for Jan 18-21, said the two sources familiar with the ongoing talks.

An Akasa spokesperson said the airline does not comment on speculation, while Boeing did not respond to Reuters' queries.

The sources declined to be named as the plane order details are confidential.Reuters is first to report details of the deal, which comes on top of Akasa's existing order book for 76 Boeing 737 MAX planes.

Akasa is India's newest airline and has garnered market share of 4 per cent since it started flying in 2022, against IndiGo's 60pc and Tata Group airlines' combined 26pc.

Its Chief Commercial Officer Praveen Iyer told Indian newspaper Business Line in December that Akasa planned to announce a three-digit aircraft order in early 2024, without sharing any details.

The first source said its new order for around 150 planes is likely to include some future purchasing options.

The airline currently flies only domestically, with a fleet of around two dozen planes. It was hit last year by the abrupt departure of about a tenth of its pilots and had warned it was flying less as a result, costing it market share. It has since said the issue is behind it.

Both sources said Akasa's new plane order is aimed at fuelling its domestic and international expansion, with the narrow-body Boeing planes being ordered equipped to fly to nearby foreign destinations like Southeast Asia and the Middle East from India.

Indian carriers are trying to keep pace with soaring demand for air travel which has surged post-COVID, sending industry records tumbling amid diminishing production slots even as plane manufacturers are struggling to meet output goals.

IndiGo in June placed a record order for 500 Airbus narrow-body planes, eclipsing Air India's purchase of 470 combined jets from Airbus and Boeing earlier in the year.

Akasa's order will be another win for Boeing, which has been lagging behind Airbus in the fast-growing Indian market, where its other customers include SpiceJet.