Happy Times Ahead

Boeing looks forward to catering to India’s growing aviation market

Yunus Dar

According to Boeing, India will be the fastest growing aviation market in the next two decades, requiring aircraft valued at USD 320 billion. The global aerospace giant said the country would need around 2,400 aircraft in the next 20 years, a majority of them being narrow-body.

Boeing 787 aircraft

Boeing estimates USD 440 billion as the expenditure required by the operators to operate and maintain the expanding fleet, on aviation services, including ground, station and cargo operations, along with maintenance and engineering. The forecast is part of Boeing’s annual India Commercial Market Outlook (CMO), released in New Delhi on 6 November 2019. The company expects India’s airplane fleet to quadruple in size to approximately 2500 airplanes by 2038. Boeing’s deputy vice president of commercial marketing Darren Hulst, however, said many of the new airplanes will replace ageing aircraft, and most will help operators grow their network.

“It is impressive to witness the passenger growth in India. This market continues to be one of the fastest-growing in the world. Over the past decade, domestic air traffic has tripled, while international air traffic has more than doubled. And we see tremendous potential for even more growth as India’s middle class expands and more consumers are able to fly,” said Darren. He also said the company forecasts commercial operators expanding their networks to offer more direct flights domestically and open new long-distance options for passengers in the next few years.

The Boeing market forecast predicts single-aisles in India leading the demand for airplane deliveries - comprising 87 per cent of all new airplanes - to meet requirements for domestic network connections and service to new airports. The wide-body airplanes will make up 13 per cent of new airplane deliveries, helping to enable new long-range flights, according to the forecast.

The company said the low-cost carriers continue to lead in the Indian market having expanded six-fold in the last decade. Also, internationally, India added approximately 30 city pairs in the past year, and the 10 longest haul routes are all flown by Boeing wide-bodied aircraft, it said.

On a question related to Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, which remains grounded because of two crashes, Darren said it was up to the global regulators to decide the timing of the return to service of ill-fated aircraft. The company expects it to be ready by March next year for the airlines to start flying the plane again. He said that in India, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had conducted its own assessments and has been in touch with Boeing about the upgrades on the aircraft. DGCA said it would carry out its own due diligence before permitting 737 Max to fly in India.

Boeing, according to Darren, is working round-the-clock to get the aircraft back into service and the company is working with the regulators in India and abroad to ensure its return to the skies as soon as possible. He also said the company has enhanced the safety system of the aircraft’s MCAS (Maneuvering Characteristics Augmentation System), besides the flight control system. It was the aircraft’s automated flight control system that had malfunctioned during the two reported crashes, after which it was grounded.

The 737 Max issue, coupled with the growing competition from Airbus in India, has been an irritant for the American aerospace giant. In October 2019, India’s budget carrier, Indigo, placed an order for 300 aircraft from Airbus, reportedly for about USD 33 billion. Considered one of the biggest orders from a single airline for Airbus, Indigo will be delivered a mix of A320neo, A321neo and A321XLR (Extra Long-Range) aircraft. The airline aims to use A321XLR for long-range flights which it plans to initially launch to destinations in London and Tokyo.

Boeing is nevertheless optimistic about the future in India, which has seen unprecedented demand in the aviation sector. The burgeoning middle-class in India is being seen as the key driver of the demand, which has seen India leading the Asia-Pacific with a huge margin in aviation growth. The company expects the country will have over 200 million households with incomes more than USD 20,000 by 2028.

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