The domestic market in India has mostly been dominated by two narrowbody aircraft families – the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. While Boeing had the initial lead more than a decade ago, most Indian airlines have shown a clear preference for the A320, and now in particular for the more fuel-efficient A320neo family. We take a look at how the A320neo family of aircraft is placed in the third-biggest aviation market in the world.
Before 2005, the Indian domestic sector was served by full-service carriers, out of which only Air India operated the A320s. Following the low-cost carrier boom, this began to change. As time progressed, IndiGo emerged as the biggest player, placing its trust in the A320 family and becoming the biggest customer in the world of the A320neo family after placing record-breaking orders.
Go First, too, went for the A320s and is currently second to IndiGo in the number of active A320neos. National carrier Air India also developed its neo fleet over the years along with another full-service carrier Vistara. AirAsia India also makes it to the list with four active A320neos in its fleet. Here’s a breakdown of active aircraft from the A320neo family by airlines in India, as per ch-aviation:
- IndiGo: A320neo – 124; A321neo – 40
- Go First: A320neo – 37
- Vistara: A320neo – 30; A321neo – 3
- Air India: A320neo – 26
- AirAsia India: A320neo – 4
The dominance of the A320neos in Indian airlines’ fleets can be gauged from massive orders by carriers over the years, with IndiGo leading the pack once again. The airline first made news in 2011 ordering an impressive 180 A320neos, followed by an even bigger order of 250 neos in 2015. The biggest of them all, however, came in in 2019 when IndiGo ordered 300 more aircraft from the family featuring a diverse mix of A320neo, A321neo, and A321XLR.
The carrier has emerged as one of the most valuable customers of Airbus, ordering a total of 730 aircraft from the neo family.
While Air India hasn’t placed an order from Airbus since 2006, Go First is expecting to add more neos to its fleet. In 2019, there were reports that the airline was open to ordering around 200 narrowbody aircraft. Current data from ch-aviation shows that it awaits a further 95 A320neos in the coming few years. Vistara, the latest full-service carrier to serve in the country, currently awaits deliveries of 27 A320neos.
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Hiccups along the way
While Indian carriers have shown no hesitation in embracing the A320neos, a few aircraft from the family have had some setbacks. In late 2019, IndiGo and Go First had to ground A320neo and A321neo aircraft fitted with P&W 1100G series engines, following reports of engine vibration and distress in the combustion chamber. A string of incidents involving IndiGo and Go First flights operating the A320neos had mid-air emergencies, often resulting in pilots shutting down the faulty engines and diverting to the nearest airport.
India’s aviation regulator, DGCA, took swift action grounding all neos operating with the faulty engines and later allowing them to operate flights only on such routes that could get them to land safely at an airport within 60 minutes in case of an emergency. IndiGo and Go First were given deadlines to replace the faulty engines, which got extended multiple times for various reasons, including the pandemic.
By 2020, news emerged that both airlines were busy revamping their fleet, and the DGCA was very close to giving them the go-ahead to operate the A320neos without restrictions.
The pandemic notwithstanding, the Indian aviation market is projected to grow massively in the next ten years. Of course, Boeing will also look to grab a huge portion of future aircraft orders. But given the current situation, the Airbus A320neo family looks comfortably placed to dominate the Indian skies for some time to come.
Have you flown in any of the A320neo family aircraft in India? What was your experience like? Do share in the comment section below.