Reports indicate that Indian low-cost carrier Akasa Air is close to ordering up to 150 Boeing 737 MAX narrowbody aircraft. The additional planes should enable the Mumbai-based airline to capture a larger market share in meeting the booming demand for cheap air travel within India, as well as expanding its operations outside of the country.
The formal announcement of the order is expected to be made at the Wings India event set to take place in Hyderabad on January 18 – 21, 2024. The event is the largest civil aviation event due to be held in India during 2024.
Akasa Air is India’s newest airline and has already managed to gain a 4% market share in the Indian domestic market since commencing operations in 2022. However, this figure is dwarfed by the 60% held by IndiGo, as well as the combined market share of 26% held by the Tata Group-owned airlines (Air India, Air India Express, and Vistara).
Any new Alaska Air order will be in addition to the outstanding order for 76 737 MAX 8 aircraft that it already has in place with Boeing, as the carrier strives to gain a significant foothold in the Indian domestic market – currently the fastest-growing aviation market worldwide.
According to Akasa’s Chief Commercial Officer, Praveen Iyer, the airline is planning to announce an unspecified three-digit aircraft order in early 2024. However, Iyer was not currently able to disclose any further details, other than that the announcement would also include some additional future purchasing options.
Akasa Air ended 2023 with a fleet of 22 aircraft, according to ch-aviation. This number included 21 Boeing 737 MAX 8 narrowbodies which each seat 174 passengers in a single class layout, plus a single Boeing 737 MAX 8 200, the first of its kind in Asia. The latter is a high-density MAX 8 variant with additional emergency exits that can seat up to 200 passengers.
“Having reached a fleet size of 22 aircraft within 17 months of commencing operations, Akasa Air has witnessed unprecedented growth since its inception and has emerged as one of the fastest-growing airlines in the history of civil aviation,” the company said in a recent statement.
“In line with the airline’s dedication to sustainability, the 737 MAX family offers enhanced range and fuel efficiency, cutting fuel consumption and carbon emissions by 20% compared to its predecessors. Moreover, the 737 MAX is notably quieter, presenting a 50% smaller noise footprint than the aircraft it replaces”, the statement claims.
With its existing fleet, the carrier currently flies only domestically. Furthermore, the airline had its wings severely clipped in 2023 when around 10% of its pilot workforce left the carrier for other airlines, both within India and further afield. As a result, the company as forced to delay expansion plans and new route launches, although it now states that these issues are “behind” it.
International expansion on the cards
Sources close to the airline have told Reuters that Akasa’s new aircraft order is aimed at expediting expansion plans both domestically and internationally. Currently, the carrier does not fly outside of its home nation. However, the new aircraft arriving within Alaska Air’s fleet have the capability to fly from India to nearby cross-border destinations elsewhere in Southeast Asia and the Middle East.
Indian carriers are trying to keep pace with soaring demand for air travel which has surged since the pandemic. As a result, the Indian market has become something of a hotbed for new aircraft orders in recent months, as aircraft manufacturers battle it out for new orders while they continue to struggle to meet output goals.
In June 2023, IndiGo placed a record order for 500 Airbus narrowbody planes, eclipsing Air India’s purchase of 470 combined jets from Airbus and Boeing earlier in the year. The Akasa Air order will represent a welcome win for Boeing, which has been lagging behind Airbus in orders for its narrowbody 737 MAX model, as airlines were instead swayed towards the Airbus A320 family of aircraft during 2023.