Bombardier aims to double fleet size in India: executive

Canadian plane maker Bombardier Inc plans to double its fleet size in India to more than 40 aircraft over the next few years, an executive told Reuters on Wednesday 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," Francois Cognard, vice-president sales, Southeast Asia and Australasia at Bombardier Commercial Aircraft, said.

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, Cognard 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," 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," Cognard said.

Cognard is 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 products of Boeing and Airbus Group .

Still, 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."

(Reporting by Aditi Shah; Editing by Euan Rocha)