Ashwini Phadnis

New Delhi, July 10

AFTER being the launch customer for the Airbus A-320 aircraft, Indian Airlines is getting ready to be the first to "acquire and operate" the Airbus A-319 aircraft in the domestic skies.

Official sources told Business Line that the first new A-319 aircraft that the airline is to lease will arrive here in November.

The aircraft is being leased from CIT in the US. The airline is to lease another two aircraft of the similar type in December.

The agreement for leasing the aircraft was signed recently and is a stopgap arrangement till IA is able to purchase aircraft. The airline board has already approved a proposal to acquire 43 Airbus aircraft and is awaiting the Government nod to start the acquisition programme.

The leased A-319 aircraft are to be utilised by the airline's subsidiary, Alliance Air. At present Alliance operates Boeing 737 and ATR aircraft. The airline plans to convert some of the Boeing aircraft being operated by Alliance into freighter aircraft.

The induction of the A-319 aircraft would also start the process of a complete changeover in the subsidiary airline.

"Alliance will be given a completely new image with a new look, lower fares and a new brand image. The airline should then be in a better position to compete with the low cost airlines that have come up in the recent past," a senior Government official said.

The airline's former Chairman and Managing Director, Mr Sunil Arora, had told Business Line that after the A-319s are inducted and the route network of IA and Alliance integrated, conscious efforts will be made to put some frequencies with these new aircraft on trunk routes, especially in non-prime times at attractive fares so as to provide stiff competition to other airlines.

Apart from IA, the UB group promoted Kingfisher airline and the new start-up IndiGo airlines also plan to acquire A-319 aircraft.

(This article was published in the Business Line print edition dated July 11, 2005)
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