ATR Eyes on India’s Widening Regional Airline Sector
As the government aims to improve the regional air connectivity between tier II and tier III cities in India through schemes like UDAN, all major air operators are trying to expand their footprints in regional airline sector. As a market leader in manufacturing small aircrafts, ATR sees a lot of prospects in India, and is working on expanding our business in India to serve the regional connectivity needs of the country, says Guillaume Huertas, Head of Sales, ATR-South Asia. Mr Huertas speaks to Aeromag about ATR’s business plans for India.
ATR is the world leader in the market for regional aircraft up to 90 seats. Could you give us an overview of the company’s business in India?
We have four customers who are currently operating in India. Jet Airways is our customer since 1999. Then there is Alliance Air, which is Air India’s regional subsidiary started in 2002 with first generation ATR 42. In 2014 Alliance Air has started using ATR 72600, and now they have a fleet of 15 aircrafts. Indigo is another customer in India with nearly 40 aircraft in service. Recently Indigo has placed an order for 50 aircrafts, and the first aircraft will be delivered soon, and more than 20 aircraft will be delivered by December 2018. Trujet, which is a low-cost regional airline based at Hyderabad, is also our customer with around four aircrafts. We have already started delivery of aircrafts for the UDAN scheme. By, 2020 we expect to complete around 200 deliveries in India.
ATR 42 and 72 aircrafts are our main products in India. We see a lot of prospects in India for these two aircrafts, especially through the UDAN regional connectivity scheme of the government. India’s domestic airline market is having an unprecedented and strong growth at around 20% yearly. So, many regional operators have shown interest in expanding their regional footprints. We have discussed with both private and public carriers who want to expand their network, and create new regional routes. We are convinced that India will require more domestic and regional connectivity, especially between tier 2 and tier 3 cities. So, ATR is working on expanding our business in India to serve the regional connectivity needs of the country.
ATR cargo aircraft is also much in demand. Could you explain the features of the latest cargo model and the major deals signed for this variant?
Recently, we have announced a major order from FedEx for 50 ATR 72 aircraft for freight purpose, in addition to around 50 of the same aircrafts, currently they have in operation. It is the first time they are placing brand new aircraft for cargo purpose, and we are working on the delivery of these freighters. ATR 72, with huge fuselage, is the ideal aircraft for freight purpose, as it can accommodate heavy cargo and containers that are usually carried only in bigger aircrafts. In India, we know that the Express Freight is developing. We hope to expand our business with them in the years to come.
With over 1,500 aircraft sold worldwide, ATR is continuously gaining popularity. Which country / operator flies the largest number of ATR aircrafts?
Country-wise, ATR has the biggest fleets in Indonesia and Brazil. But, if we look at area-wise, the Asian market account for one-third of ATR’s sales. Also, 50% of the backlog we have will be delivered to Asian operators.
Among ATR’s passenger aircrafts, which is the most popular variant? Could you give us the details about the biggest customers?
Today, ATR 72 is the most popular aircraft which is in high demand. It is the aircraft which has the lowest cost per seating in its category, with around 10% lower than its direct competitors in the typical regional sector. It has the lowest trip cost in its category. With 20% lower trip cost than others, it is the aircraft that is perfect for operations in regions where yields are low, as it helps operators to be profitable even wit relatively low number of passengers.
Also, we do produce ATR 42-600 which is the little brother of ATR 72. Both are same aircrafts coming in different lengths, with same features, pool of pilots, engineers, and almost 85% common spare parts. They are built in the same assembly line. Both aircrafts are popular, but ATR 42 is the perfect aircraft when it comes to operate in challenging airfields with very short runways, or to address markets with low demand. In that respect, ATR 42 could be a great aircraft to develop new air routes in India, where you have low demand or routes which have never been tested by other airlines.
ATR aircraft are now manufactured and assembled in Italy and France. Are there plans to expand the manufacturing facilities outside these centres, especially to India?
As you mentioned, the aircrafts are manufactured and assembled in Europe currently. But, we are trying to look at is a broader picture, that is expanding the lifecycle of the aircrafts. This is where we believe it is very important to build a local ecosystem. So more than just looking at the manufacturing and the assembly of the aircraft, we believe it is key to be in in countries like India. For example, if we take India, in 2006 we have set up ATR India Customer Support (AICS) with its HQ in Bangalore to support customers from not only India, but entire South Asia. Supporting, as well as, maintaining the aircraft is important. Due to increasing number of ATRs in India, we are developing an Indian ecosystem as part of increasing the lifespan of the aircraft.
Training of the crew is also important. We provide ATR 72 simulators to independent companies like FSTC, Gurgaon to help them train the pilots and crew. Air India also purchased a simulator recently in Hyderabad to train their pilots. So, ATR has been locally supporting all operations for a long period of time.