The Civil Aviation Ministry seems inclined to consider SpiceJet's proposal to promote induction of wide-body aircraft such as the Boeing 777 by Indian carriers. A possible way to incentivize induction of bigger aircraft for operating long-haul flights to Europe and the US is by launching a scheme on the lines of UDAN that provides subsidy to operators for connecting smaller towns in the country. Recently, the Ajay Singh-led SpiceJet had written to the government think-tank Niti Aayog pointing out that foreign airlines were taking away 60 per cent of India's international traffic to various destinations globally by using their transit hubs. It suggested that a large part of this traffic could have been captured by Indian carriers in case they had a fleet of wide-body aircraft.
"This is primarily due to scarcity of wide-body aircraft with Indian carriers," the airline argued. Niti Aayog took note of it immediately and wrote to the Aviation Ministry to give suggestions for reversing the trend. Marked as urgent, the Niti Aayog's Infrastructure Connectivity Vertical sought the nodal Ministry's response on the issue at the earliest. The issues raised by SpiceJet were termed as industry-wide concerns and on the recommendation of Indian carriers. SpiceJet promoter Singh is considered close to the ruling Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP).
Official sources said that Aviation Ministry's economic regulatory division had been vetting the proposal to launch incentives on the line of regional connectivity scheme UDAN for long-haul flights. A SpiceJet official spokesperson said that the airline had not submitted any proposal to provide subsidy for long-haul international flights. "No proposal for subsidy on international flights has been submitted by SpiceJet," the airline official spokesperson replied in response to an IANS query.
While SpiceJet currently does not have wide-body aircraft in its fleet, it has big ambitions to launch long-haul flights. It can also be one of the contenders for buying Air India provided the deal is lucrative and fits into its scheme of things. Speaking to IANS, executives of other airlines doubted the introduction of such a scheme. "Such steps are not needed. It may distort the market instead of bringing any benefit. The government should go for wider consultation with the industry before making any decision," an executive said on the condition of anonymity.