As SpiceJet (SG, Delhi International) resumed operations with its B737-8s on November 23, its chairman said the carrier would deploy 50 of the type by the end of 2023 as it phases out its older B737-800s.

“We will induct 50 aircraft during the 2022 and 2023 calendar years, and 15 to 20 of them will be used to replace older aircraft in the fleet,” Ajay Singh said, as quoted by the Economic Times newspaper, adding that the first four of these would be delivered "soon" to begin scheduled flight operations from December 10, 2021.

As the only current Indian operator of MAX aircraft, the low-cost carrier has so far taken delivery of thirteen B737-8s, the ch-aviation fleets module shows. It has an additional 129 units on direct order from Boeing and plans to take 155 aircraft. All of the thirteen already in India "will start flying in the next 15-20 days," Singh added.

Singh confirmed that all compensation issues with Boeing had been settled, reiterating an earlier statement to that effect, but he declined to give any figures.

The chairman also commented that the airline would try to arrange that the aircraft yet to be delivered would be leased via companies based in Gujarat International Finance Tec-City (GIFT City) near Ahmedabad, which the Indian government has been trying to develop into a global leasing hub. Last month, local media reported that six lessors - Acumen Aviation, JetSetGo Aviation, Vman Aviation Services, Wels, Rensar Aviation, and Millennium Aviation - had been given licences to operate at the site, and seven more entities had applied for aircraft leasing licences.

B737-8 VT-MXH (msn 60646) was the first of the B737-8s to be reactivated. After a short test flight from Delhi International to Varanasi on November 20, it has been flying from Delhi to Mumbai International, Bagdogra, and Chennai, ch-aviation analysis of Flightradar24 ADS-B data shows, and on November 23, SpiceJet celebrated the return to service of the MAX with a special flight from New Delhi to Gwalior with Singh on board together with officials such as Minister for Civil Aviation Jyotiraditya Scindia and the president of Boeing India, Salil Gupte, as well as local media.

"After the intense scrutiny this aircraft has gone through, I can say with full confidence that it's the safest aircraft to fly," said Singh.

In related news, as it continues measures to downsize its debt, Spicejet plans to cut liabilities by USD300 million over six months and raise funding from banks and possibly the issue of a warrant, Singh told Bloomberg ahead of the Gwalior flight.

"It will be a much cleaner-looking balance sheet than it was pre-Covid," he said.

SpiceJet is also in talks with Boeing (BOE, Washington National) to acquire ten narrowbody and five to ten widebody freighters, he divulged.

"The cargo business is growing very rapidly, and we are looking at all opportunities to raise funds to grow this business quickly, and that includes selling a stake. We expect the valuation will be quite significant."