Bombardier aims to double passenger jet fleet in India

The Canadian aircraft maker expects the short-haul market to boom as infrastructure improves with SpiceJet, the company's biggest customer in the country so far.

A Bombardier C Sseries. The Canadian aircraft maker expects the short-haul market to boom as infrastructure improves with SpiceJet, the company's biggest customer in the country so far. Clement Sabourin / AFP
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The Canadian plane maker Bombardier plans to double its fleet size in India over the next few years, an executive said on the sidelines of an aviation conference in Mumbai.

“Bombardier expects the introduction of short haul flights and efforts to improve the business environment to lead to higher growth than originally planned,” said François Cognard, the vice-president for sales, South East Asia and Australasia at Bombardier Commercial Aircraft.

Apart from building more infrastructure, training, and maintenance facilities, the government has tweaked rules for repossession of aircraft, which is making plane lessors more comfortable and could bring in more investors to India, Mr Cognard said. Bombardier is looking to grow its Indian fleet to about 40 aircraft, he said.

SpiceJet, which has about 20 Q400 78-seater aircraft, is Bombardier’s biggest client in the country, and is assisting the airline in reducing costs.

“One of the ways it could help is by reconfiguring the aircraft to increase the number of seats to about 86,” Mr Cognard said, adding that this would make the airline more competitive. Bombardier has reconfigured planes for other airlines.

“The company has also started supplying planes to India’s newest airline Zoom Air,” Mr Cognard said.

He said he was hopeful of introducing the CSeries aircraft, which has higher fuel efficiency and can be designed to seat 100 or 136 passengers, making it suitable for domestic and regional flights in India.

Bombardier’s CSeries competes with some Embraer jets and the smallest planes from Boeing and Airbus.

Still, Mr Cognard is mindful of the challenges. “India is a very competitive and price sensitive market where yields are still low,” he said. “It needs to expand airport infrastructure quickly.”

Canada’s government will provide C$372.5 million (Dh1.03 billion) in support for Bombardier to help fund two jet programmes, including the CSeries.

About a third of the so-called “repayable programme contributions” will go to the CSeries while the rest will bolster the Global 7000 business jet, the chief executive Alain Bellemare said in Quebec. The interest-free funds will help secure thousands of jobs in Canada, said the innovation minister Navdeep Bains said.

“I believe Bombardier is indeed back,” Mr Bains said. “Our investment is a vote of confidence in the talents of the skilled Canadians who work in this sector, who work in this company.”

The federal assistance gives Bombardier an additional cushion while falling far short of the C$1 billion in aid the company sought more than a year ago, as it struggled with production delays and cost overruns in its marquee CSeries programme. After landmark sales of the jetliner to Air Canada and Delta Air Lines in 2016, the company is now seeking new orders while also targeting the first delivery of the Global 7000, its largest business aircraft.

* Agencies

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