A Look At SpiceJet’s Shrinking Aircraft Fleet

Indian low-cost airline SpiceJet was on a huge fleet expansion at the start of 2020, with 42 new aircraft in under a year. While the airline’s 737 MAXs were still grounded, SpiceJet was leasing new aircraft to make up for the shortfall. Fast forward 18 months and the carrier has rapidly lost planes, with its fleet size dipping below 100 aircraft recently. Here’s a look at SpiceJet’s shrinking fleet.

SpiceJet 737
SpiceJet has retired several leased aircraft and even some lessors threaten to repossess others. Photo: Getty Images

Highs and lows

In February 2020, SpiceJet was looking forward to a strong year. While it was hoping for its Boeing 737 MAX aircraft to be recertified, it had expanded beyond the type to wet lease two Airbus A320s, a big change for the airline.

However, just a month later, the days of not meeting capacity demand were over as the pandemic decimated business. The carrier was effectively grounded from March 25th to May 25th, only flying its few freighters 737-800s in that period.

SpiceJet 737
In a bid to grow its market share, SpiceJet added a massive 42 new aircraft from March 2019 to March 2020. Photo: Getty Images

Here is where SpiceJet’s fleet troubles began showing up. Three 737-800s left the fleet in February 2020 alone, followed by five more 738s and one 737-700s too. From a fleet of 121 aircraft at its peak, the size fell to just 110, and the bleeding would not stop there. The next few months saw more aircraft leave, with four more leaving in the April and May of 2020.

Cargo

Once demand began returning to the domestic market, SpiceJet’s fleet exodus paused. The carrier began flying dozens of new international cargo routes, capitalizing on the lack of freight traffic from India due to the pandemic. This period actually saw its fleet increase once again, with one Airbus A340 and A321 officially joining for freight operations.

However, as the pandemic dragged on, SpiceJet’s cash balance became dangerously low. Two more 737-800s left the fleet in August and October 2020, which hopefully marked the end of the fleet changes. However, the loss of these two planes meant SpiceJet only operated 99 aircraft, losing its status as India’s third airline will be a fleet of over 100 jets.

HiFly A340
SpiceJet’s brief stint with the A340 converted freighters came to a close in May 2021, as the second wave crushed business again. Photo: Kamezukakofun via Wikimedia Commons

After a period of relative stability in the winter and spring, SpiceJet saw its fleet hold steady. While it was still failing to pay lease rentals on several aircraft, leading to legal challenges, operational capacity was recovering. However, this came to a sudden crash as India hit a second wave of cases in April 2021.

Bye-bye

As the second wave hit Indian airlines as hard as the first, SpiceJet dropped its newly leased freighter jets. Both of the planes leased from Hi Fly, the A340 and A321, were retired in May 2021, as the carrier struggled to cover basic expenses. While it was still leasing some planes from Hi Fly, their operations were far reduced. However, things weren’t as bad as they could have been.

As of today, SpiceJet’s fleet stands at 97 aircraft: 65 737s and 32 Dash 8s. Of those, 40 are parked on the ground due to bans (13 737 MAXs), legal challenges, or just lack of demand. With only 57 aircraft left, SpiceJet has a long way to before it reaches anywhere close to its 2019 highs, and its goal will be to maintain even this many planes.

Data in this article is courtesy of Planespotters.net.

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