Air India Express, the wholly owned subsidiary of National Aviation Company (formed by merging Air India and Indian Airlines), will be inducting seven Boeing 737-800s to its fleet of 18 aircraft. While three of these will be added in this calendar year, the remaining will join in 2009, said AIE Chief Operating Officer P P Singh.
Each aircraft will cost about $50 million and the purchase is being funded by the US-based Exim Bank. The airline operates 143 flights a week from Indian cities to 12 destinations in the Far East and West Asian countries.
In its fourth year of operation, the international budget carrier now has 11 fully owned aircraft, while seven are on lease, which will expire in 2010.
Singh said they were facing a shortage of pilots and were, therefore, going slow on expansion. It currently employs 80 pilots, including 58 'imported' captains. "There is about 20 per cent shortage (of pilots),'' Singh said.
However, he felt the situation would ease in about three years and added that the attrition rate was stable.
Meanwhile, the airline is set to commence its operation from Hyderabad to Dubai on June 5. It will fly thrice a week on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays to Dubai, departing from Hyderabad at 1320 hours and arriving in Dubai at 1520 hours (local time).
"The Hyderabad-Dubai sector has a lot of potential,'' he said, adding the AIE had a 30 per cent share in the overall flight business to Dubai.
It will begin operation from Goa from June 17 and from other south Indian cities to Saudi Arabia soon.
Currently, it also flies to Kaula Lumpur from Chennai. The Hyderabad-Dubai flight would be a connecting one to the Kaula Lumpur flight, he said.