Regional start-up airline Fly91 has finalised leases for two ATR-72 aircraft and aims to start operations in first quarter of CY 2024, founder and chief executive officer Manoj Chacko has said.

Chacko, a former executive vice president of Kingfisher Airlines, has teamed up with former Fairfax India head Harsha Raghavan to launch the airline which will be based at Mopa airport in Goa.

Fly91 was targeting October launch but the plan is behind schedule due to delays in sourcing aircraft. Chacko, however, insists the project is on track and there is no delay.

“There is no issue regarding availability of ATR aircraft. Planes are available on lease but lessors have turned extremely cautious about India after the recent Go First collapse. We are demonstrating to lessors that we are well funded with a strong team. We have already signed up our first two ATR-72 600 aircraft,” Chacko stated.

Fly91 will operate on both Udan and non-Udan routes linking tier II and III cities. Udan stands for Ude Desh ka Aam Aadmi - the government’s flagship regional connectivity scheme. Fly91 received civil aviation ministry no-objection certificate in April. In July it won the bid to operate flights from Sindhudurg, Jalgaon, Nanded ( all in Maharashtra ) and Agatti (Lakshadweep) to Bengaluru, Goa, Hyderabad and Pune under the Udan scheme.

“The first batch of pilots, engineers and cabin crew have joined us and are undergoing training. Our HQ and training facility is fully built up and operational in Goa. We are working closely with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation to secure all necessary approvals,” Chacko said.

“Initially we will start with two planes and will take our fleet to 6 aircraft over the course of next 12 months,” he added.

Air travel in India is surging and between January-October passenger traffic grew 27 per cent on a year on a year basis. After a slow start, November has also seen record traffic. But not all are benefitting from traffic surge. 

Earlier this month regional airline FlyBig suspended its ATR aircraft operations. While the airline blamed non availability of spares for the crisis, lessors repossessed the aircraft for not paying the rent on time. Alliance Air too has been forced to ground four of its ATR aircraft for the past few 3-4 months and this has resulted in airlines reducing its flights. 

Supply chain challenges could also impact bigger airlines from growing their regional play. “Supply chain issues are now a critical risk and could have a deeper and more strategic impact than anticipated. This could for example impact the ability of mainline scheduled airlines to operate their Udan flights,” aviation consultancy CAPA said in its mid-year outlook last week.