IndiGo Airlines (6E, Delhi International) has received the green light from India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to wet lease up to six Turkish Airlines (TK, Istanbul Airport) B777-300ERs for six months - considerably shorter than IndiGo's desired two-year lease period. The planes will be deployed onto routes between India and Turkey, with IndiGo already flying between Delhi and Istanbul and due to start Mumbai International - Istanbul flights on January 1. The aircraft would arrive ahead of the busy Christmas/New Year period.

ch-aviation recently reported that IndiGo has negotiated a deal with Turkish Airlines to wet lease the B777-300ERs plus an undisclosed number of A321s. "We have received an in-principle approval from the regulators for wet leasing aircraft and induction of these remains subject to further requisite regulatory approvals," said an IndiGo spokesperson.

The ch-aviation fleets module indicates that Turkish Airlines has thirty-three B777-300ERs and all are operational. Aside from thirty-five ATR72-600s, to date IndiGo is exclusively an operator of Airbus narrowbodies. "International air travel is going through a strong period of recovery, and demand continues to rise in the upcoming festive and winter season," said the spokesperson. "As an interim measure, we have decided to wet/ damp lease certain aircraft to cover the shortfall for our scheduled international operations."

However, the DGCA did not support IndiGo's exemption request and a two-year lease. Indian aviation regulations allow the country's carriers, subject to DGCA agreement, to wet lease aircraft for up to six months (three months plus a once-off three-month extension) to deal with "emergency situations." However, capacity or route expansion does not constitute an emergency situation under the regulations.

The DGCA reportedly believes that safety standards may be comprised if the two-year lease goes ahead, saying that the planes will remain registered in Turkey and operated by Turkish crews and that the Indian safety regulator will not have adequate oversight.

Further, the DGCA points out that allowing an extended lease period may effectively grant a Türkiye-based airline access to the Indian market over and above existing air services agreements. Airlines based in either country now have the right to fly one daily roundtrip on the key Istanbul - Mumbai and Istanbul - Delhi routes. The DGCA argues allowing the two-year lease will create incentives for airlines to abuse the bilateral air service agreement.

IndiGo's exemption application remains before India's Ministry of Civil Aviation. "We are awaiting the ministry’s decision on this issue," an unnamed IndiGo official told The Times Of India newspaper. "We have sought an exemption for two years as we feel the supply chain issues being currently faced will hopefully be resolved in that timeframe."