Alliance Air, the regional airline arm of Air India, will expand its fleet by three aircraft this year, and this will include two Dornier 228 turboprops from Hindustan Aeronautical Limited.
"Apart from this, we are also planning to lease an ATR 42," Alliance Air CEO Harpreet A De Singh told Moneycontrol in a recent interview.
The airline at present has a fleet of 18 ATR-72.
Singh hopes to use the additional aircraft to expand Alliance Air's network, both in commercial routes and those that are supported under the government's UDAN scheme. The expansion will make the most of the recovery in the local aviation market, ever since flights resumed in May last year.
"The paperwork is in progress to get the two Dorniers. As it is a completely new aircraft type, a lot of documents are involved," Singh said.
The CEO plans to deploy the new aircraft in the North-East, starting with Tezpur, in Assam, and Pasighat and Ziro in Arunachal Pradesh. "We are getting pilots from Indian Air Force and the Coast Guard, as they are familiar with the region and we need their experience in these critical areas. Few 'civilian' pilots have flown in these regions," Singh said.
The ATR 42, which seats 46, will be used in the Shimla sector, which has a play load restriction due to which the ATR 72 can't be flown. The ATR 72 seats 78 passengers.
On March 8, Alliance Air started services to Bareilly. To coincide with Women's Day, an all-women crew operated the inaugural Delhi-Bareilly-Delhi flight.
With Bareilly, Alliance Air now flies to 46 destinations post Covid-19 lockdown. "Post the addition of Bareilly to our ambit, a total number of flights per day are 65 and departures per day are 94," the airline had said in a statement on March 8. Prior to COVID-19, the airline used to fly to 64 destinations.
In the last few months, the airline introduced flights from Agatti Island in Lakshadweep and increased frequency on routes like Bhuj and Jamnagar. On March 1, Alliance Air started services from Bilaspur. "We have introduced new sectors, and gone into pure commercial routes including Mumbai-Goa and Mysore-Bengaluru," pointed out Harpreet.
The airline has also expanded on UDAN or Ude Desh ka Aam Nagrik, India’s regional connectivity scheme, which is backed by the government subsidy.
"Pre-COVID-19, we had 61 stations. Right now we are at 45. We will keep on increasing it as and when government also increases the cap on capacity utilisation, (which stands at 80 percent, right now)," Singh said.