When the Indian regulator DGCA declares its registered fleet list next time, it would reflect re-delivery of VT-ITC, the first A320neo with IndiGo. On March 10, 2016, MSN 6799 to be registered as VT-ITC took off from Toulouse for New Delhi. As the aircraft landed in New Delhi the next day, IndiGo became the second airline in the world to induct the A320neo in its fleet. VT-ITC was the 103rd aircraft in its fleet back then and the first aircraft which flew in non-stop from Toulouse – effectively showing off the additional range that the aircraft had because of improved fuel efficiency. All the previous deliveries were one-stop.
The initial lot of the A320neo had caused much turbulence for the airline – in terms of its fleet planning as well as share prices. The airline which until then prided itself of inducting new aircraft and having a young fleet was forced to induct older aircraft to tide over the shortage of aircraft. This amidst the fact that the airline had placed an order for 30 A320ceo aircraft, which it converted to the “neo” later in anticipation of smooth entry of the new type.
The older aircraft it had to induct included aircraft as old as twelve year old, double of the age when it typically sent aircraft out of IndiGo’s fleet. If the initial delays weren’t enough, the engine issues with the Pratt & Whitney further complicated matters. All these issues are now resolved. The initial aircraft which IndiGo inducted had 180 seats, with the later ones being configured for 186 seats.
VT-ITC was withdrawn from commercial service on February 22, 2022 and flown to Turkish Technic at Sabiha Gökçen International Airport, Istanbul on February 28, 2022. Subsequent to checks and meeting redelivery conditions, as is the norm in such cases, the aircraft seems to have been released. It will be interesting to see who picks up this aircraft. It will also let us know how the market is post pandemic and especially for a new generation aircraft like the neo, which offers around 15% savings – very crucial in the current high cost environment. If I were to take a guess, I would guess that it would go to one of the ACMI operators with specific guess being FlyLux – an upcoming airline registered in Luxembourg. However, there is no reference online as to where MSN 6799 is headed.
A large chunk of the A320ceo’s of IndiGo have been taken over by Super Air Jet in Indonesia. It will be interesting to see who takes up the “neo”.
IndiGo has been working diligently towards fleet renewal. There will be a close call between IndiGo, Go FIRST and Vistara on who becomes an all “neo” airline first. The below chart is a good indicator of how IndiGo has invested in fleet renewal.
At the end of Q4-FY22, the airline had only 41 A320ceo. At its peak the airline operated 130 A320ceo and the airline has seen 157 A320ceos in service with it. The 41 aircraft now constitute 15 % of the total fleet. Vistara’s A320ceo and B737s constitute 15.68% of the total fleet while Go FIRST’s A320ceo constitute only 10% of its total fleet. For all these airlines, some of these older planes are grounded or awaiting redelivery.
The speed of induction has seen the airline surpass the fleet of the entire AirAsia group, starting stations at a rate which is more than double of what the airline did in its early years. The induction of A321s is making the mix more interesting. The airline is adding capacity without adding frequency which has the potential to free up slots at congested airports to open up new connections. An example of this has been flights to Srinagar – where this summer, Go FIRST was the frequency leader but IndiGo had almost similar capacity.
Many iconic planes have retired from legacy carriers. As IndiGo inches towards 300 aircraft mark in its fleet, it has already seen many such important milestones. Redelivery of its first aircraft, its first aircraft with sharklets, redelivery of its first A320neo and so on. Can the airline come up with statistics like its global peers on how many passengers flew that aircraft during its lifetime with IndiGo and how many flights it did along with the airports its visited? It is time the airline starts investing in such iconic information!