Last week, the Indian aviation community was abuzz with the news that the government had finally permitted operations of the Airbus A380 in to India. In its announcement, the ministry mentioned Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, and Emirates as potential candidates in operating the aircraft to India, but there are seven other present operators of the giant, all of whom, with the exception of Qantas Airways, operate to India. Three of the Five near future A380 operators, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways and Asiana also operate to India.
The question for many aviation enthusiasts is which airline will fly in world’s largest passenger airliner, into one of the world’s most exciting aviation markets, India?
Airline wise A380 cabin configurations
Before we proceed, it is important to realise the sheer size of the A380. The aircraft is classified as a VLA (very large aircraft) which includes the venerable Boeing 747 jumbo-jet. While Airbus shows the typical seating of A380 at 555 seats in a three-class configuration, most airlines have configured their aircraft from a low 407 seats at Korean Air to a maximum of 526 at Lufthansa. The info-graphic on the right shows the various cabin configurations of the A380 operators. The size of the aircraft makes it a challenge for any airline to fill.
Potential A380 airports in India
In its order, the ministry of civil aviation allowed the operations of the super-jumbo at the four major Indian gateway airports capable of handling the A380 – New Delhi, the busiest, Mumbai, the second busiest, Bangalore, the third busiest domestic and fourth internationally, and Hyderabad, the sixth. Chennai and Kolkata are excluded since they lack the airside capability to land this huge plane.
Hyderabad. For the foreseeable future (about 36 months), we believe Hyderabad lacks an adequate catchment especially in the premium classes to allow an airline to profitably operate the A380 consistently.
Bangalore. On the face of it, Bangalore is in a similar situation as Hyderabad, but the IT city is very different from the rest of India, driven by business traffic, it has a high business class demand with virtually negligible first class demand. This same business and IT profile drives demand to extreme volumes on weekends with low weekday loads. The hi-tech nature of Bangalore’s economy also ensures it has the highest percentage of air cargo of India, which airlines carry as belly-hold for additional revenues. Both British Airways and Lufthansa operate the Boeing 747 to the IT city. Given the flexibility of the large A380 fleet, there is a small possibility that Emirates may operate an A380 during the high traffic winter months and during the weekends.
New Delhi and Mumbai. In its global market forecast (GMF), Airbus rated New Delhi and Mumbai in the list of top 20 VLA (very large aircraft) airports by 2030. These two biggest airports in India have the traffic volumes in all the three classes to sustain regular A380 operations. The issue will be which airlines will choose between these two cities.
Potential airlines to operate the A380 to India
There are currently ten operators of the A380. Air France, British Airways, China Southern, Emirates, Korean Air, Lufthansa, Malaysia Airlines, Qantas, Singapore Airlines, and Thai Airways. Five more operators, Qatar Airways, Etihad Airways, Air Austral, Skymark Airlines and Asiana will join the A380 family soon. Of these 15, Air Austral, Qantas, and Skymark don’t operate to India, and we will exclude them for now.
We next eliminate those airlines that we are reasonably sure will not operate an A380, at least in the foreseeable future to Indian airports.
Air France, focuses its bigger aircraft on north American and far east routes. It only operates its mid-sized A330s to India. Malaysia Airlines and Thai Airways focus their A380s in slot constrained high volume airports like London Heathrow, Paris Charles De Gaulle, and Frankfurt. China Southern, Korean Air, and Asiana have insufficient traffic rights to India and focus their VLAs on north American and European destinations.
Qatar and Etihad are remote possibilities for the near future as they too will initially deploy their A380s to slot congested London, Paris, Frankfurt and possibly New York. Rumours about Etihad giving one of their A380’s to their Indian partner, Jet Airways, appear to be just that for now, rumours.
This leaves us with four possible candidates.
British Airways (BA) is the most understated, yet most exciting prospect of bringing A380 to India. The whole universe conspires to make the mechanics work on the routes for BA. The stage lengths of about eight to ten hours are just right. India is an important destination for the airline, and it is demonstrating this by flying its latest aircraft, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner to Hyderabad starting March. London is one of the most visited cities by Indians, not to mention the large Indian origin diaspora living in the United Kingdom, and Heathrow is the A380 capital of the world with virtually every airline flying its A380 to it. Despite a short-sighted transit immigrant visa requirement and ridiculous air passenger fees, Heathrow is a major transit point for passengers between India and North America.
While Mumbai gets the newer 777-300ER featuring the airline’s updated cabin product, New Delhi lags behind having to make do with older 747-400s and 777-200s. The intelligent fleet deployment of British Airways must be noted. During the summers, BA deploys its larger aircraft across the Atlantic catering to massive Trans-Atlantic tourist traffic, while winters sees these aircraft in traditional “home coming” destinations in South Asia, China, and ASEAN.
Despite the airline officially saying
“We welcome the decision of the Indian government to allow A380s to operate in India. Our customers can already enjoy the comfort and luxury of our A380s on flights to Los Angeles and Hong Kong and we will be starting A380 services to Johannesburg in February and Washington in September. “We currently have four A380s and another four will join our fleet this year. We are assessing a range of routes for the aircraft but at this stage it is too early to speculate which cities we will add to its network.”
we are fairly confident of seeing a Union Jack liveried A380 at New Delhi in 2015, if not in the winter schedule.
Emirates (EK) is the world’s largest operator of the A380, and is also the biggest foreign airline operating in India, with some calling it the unofficial national airline of India. The airline operates four daily flights to New Delhi and five dailies to Mumbai, almost all of them using the 777s.
Though on the surface, the short distances from Mumbai and Delhi to Dubai may not justify the A380 which is primarily designed for longer distances, Emirates has been using its A380 ingeniously on shorter routes and we feel, will be able to make Dubai to Mumbai and Delhi work.
Emirates has suffered an image of inconsistent cabin product on its India flights, and the A380 will allow the airline to repair this perception.
With over 44 A380s already in its fleet it is all but certain, the airline will commence an A380 service to both Mumbai and New Delhi. However, since the existing bi-lateral air services agreement (ASA) cap being long exhausted, Emirates will have to consolidate its flights to accommodate the large behemoth. We expect EK to steal the thunder and be the first to operate an A380 to India.
Lufthansa (LH) has always declared its intentions to operate the A380 to India. It was forced to bring its other VLA, the Boeing 747-8i, to New Delhi when the government held firm in its short-sighted denial of A380 operations. This past week saw Lufthansa become the first airline to publicly declare their intentions of bringing Airbus A380 to “major Indian markets”, and most likely from the winter schedule which starts in end October.
The carrier operates an A330-300 featuring its new business class product (which is not on its A380) to both Mumbai and Delhi, with Chennai starting in March 2014. The 747-8i to Delhi also has the new business class and the new first class product (which is also on their A380), while the 747-400 to Mumbai is two generations behind, which as per few trip reports on Flyer Talk, does not even have personal IFE screens in Economy, is a sure shot recipe for customer dissatisfaction, especially on Intercontinental routes.
We expect Lufthansa to operate one A380 to India. It may upgrade Delhi to an A380 and move the 747-8i to replace the 747-400 at Mumbai, or it might directly upgrade Mumbai to an A380. The Indo-German bi-lateral ASA has to be amended to include the A380. It’s an interesting possibility, one that the industry, especially Lufthansa’s MEB3 friends will be watching closely.
Singapore Airlines (SIA) was the launch customer of the A380, has 19 aircraft in their fleet, and they have just ordered another five. SIA is also in partnership with the Tatas to commence a full service airline in India.
The airline has a strategy of offering its best products to the political and commercial capitals of Asian countries. Following this, SIA has been aggressively expanding at Mumbai where it offers triple daily flights to Singapore, while Delhi is at 19 weekly flights currently and will become triple-daily from the summer schedule, all on Boeing 777s. At both cities, the pattern is a morning flight on a smaller 777-200 with two night/mid-night flights being scheduled within three hours of each other.
Delhi though still does not receive the airline’s 777-300ER flagship which features their newest cabin product, so it is very likely the airline will choose to club the two night/mid-night flights and offer Delhi the airline’s best cabin product which includes the SQ Suites. No on-board frolicking please, the airline’s rules clearly prohibit joining the ‘mile high club’.
The dilemma the airline faces is that its current A380 fleet is fully deployed. The additional five orders are relatively recent and delivery is not expected any time soon. The airline will have to sacrifice one flight from another destination to service India in the short-term, or may choose to deploy A380s later.
Related Post: A380 finally flies into New Delhi T3
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With a twitter handle like @GlobeTrotScott, it was almost impossible to leave Scott Mayerowitz out of this list. And not just the apt twitter handle, his extensive experience and expertise as a long time travel and airline writer meant that I had to somehow find a way to convince him, to answer my curiosities.
As it turned out Scott is all round nice guy and few twitter DM’s between us did the trick. Apt again, considering twitter is a very important part of this little initiative called “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”. Get the hint?
Scott is based in the New York headquarters of The Associated Press, one of the world’s largest news agencies, writing long form enterprise and investigative stories about the airline and travel industries, and covering all aspects of aviation. Prior to his arrival at the AP, Scott covered travel for ABC News and oversaw the network’s online travel section. He’s also been associated with ABC in the past.
This series has had aviation and travel maestros of various kinds, from marketing specialists, to world renowned bloggers, perpetual non-stop travellers to well respected frequent flyers, Having someone now from journalistic background who’s a self confessed #AvGeek excited me immensely, and I hope all of you enjoy our chat as well.
- What is your greatest motivation to travel Scott, and what do you think about air travel?
Scott – I just love to explore. Even when I walk around New York, where I live, I try to pick a different block and see something new. Traveling to the other end of the country – or another continent – is just an expansion of that desire to appease my curiosity. Trains and ferries are fun, but nothing beats flying high above the globe at nearly the speed of sound. I’m happy spending my flight pressed against the window watching small towns, rivers and highways pass below. Even the clouds can be fun to watch.
- I know you consider yourself an #AvGeek, what do you think makes flights memorable? Do you have a flight memory to share?
Scott – Flying is a great tool for quickly exploring faraway lands but it is ultimately just a means for getting from one place to another. That said it could be a lot of fun. Too often, I am buried in my laptop on a flight. But when I don’t have work to do, I’m like a five-year-old boy again, watching the world outside the window. The complex operations of an airport are also fun to watch. My most memorable flight isn’t one where I’ve been pampered in first class – though those are nice too – but a short hop at low elevation across the Caribbean. I was mesmerized by the view of the Shallow Ocean and countless tiny islands below.
- Do you have a preferred airport?
Scott – It’s hard to pick just one. Napa Farms Market at San Francisco’s Terminal 2 has great, quick food. I love the look of the Rafael Viñoly-designed terminal in Montevideo. Hong Kong’s sprawling airport is easy to navigate and you can’t beat the express train into the city. The huts at Kona airport in Hawaii make me smile.
- I know you cover the airline industry, but I’m still going to try and ask you your favourite airline.
Scott – I can’t exactly pick favourites in my job. Sure one of the Asian carriers might have the best seats or service, but that doesn’t mean it is the best value for everybody or fits my travel needs. And an airline that I might prefer for domestic travel isn’t necessarily going to fly me to Africa or South America. The one that gets me there safely, on time, at a reasonable cost and with some degree of comfort wins.
- What about your favourite aircraft type?
Scott – I like the promise of the Boeing 787 and the Airbus A350. If they live up to the hype, they can cut the cost of travel and the toll that flying takes on the environment. That said, I still find the Boeing 777 to be one of the most graceful and simplistic planes. Sure it doesn’t have the distinctive hump of the 747 or the A380’s double deck but it has two giant engines that are able to take hundreds of people around the globe without stopping for fuel. I’ve been lucky enough to see those engines up close and, well, it puts everything into perspective.
- And while globe hopping on those 777s, have you come across a city where you love traveling to? Recall an interesting travel moment.
Scott – One of my favourite travel memories was an early-morning run along the Danube when visiting Budapest. The city was just coming to life. Most tourists were still in bed. The sun was beaming down on these amazing historical buildings. And I just experienced a sense of being part of it all. It’s one of the most beautiful cities and – at the time – was just far enough off the tourist agenda that it wasn’t overrun with crowds. Besides, who can’t love a city that has 500-year-old Turkish baths with amazing architecture?
- Do you consult a website or a guidebook etc. before and while your traveling? What’s your research for a country/city like?
Scott – When in Europe, I rely on Rick Steve’s for advice on what to see and which neighbourhoods to stroll through. Otherwise, I check Frommer’s and Fodor’s for the basics. These days, I’m finding myself turning more and more to Twitter. I’m fortunate enough to have many loyal followers who give me tips and connect me with locals they know for even better tips. We all know to see the Eiffel Tower, Louvre and Notre Dame when visiting Paris. But what about that great, new cafe in Le Marais? That’s where Twitter has surprisingly helped me.
- How would you like to see airports improve?
Scott – Airports, particularly in the U.S., need to do a better job of being accessible by mass transit. Cities should follow the lead of Portland, St. Louis, Salt Lake City and Denver, which have built (or are still building) light rail lines to the airport. It’s stressful enough to worry about getting through check-in lines and security. Nobody should have to also fret over a traffic jam. Living in New York, I frequently take our clunky and often confusing mass transit to the airport. It might take longer – and is far from the best system – but I know exactly how long the trip will take.
- What tips you would like to give to new travellers, afraid of breaking their bank in order to travel.
Scott – Some of my best travel experiences have come on a shoestring budget. I still have cravings for this incredible dinner I had in Buenos Aires’ La Boca neighbourhood; we had steak, wine and pasta for less than the cost of some New York lunches. Thanks to some wise use of credit cards and frequent flier miles, I was able to fly for free. Many public transit lines – especially in Europe – offer great sightseeing tours at a fraction of the cost of those hop-on, hop-off buses. Museums are often free one night or day during the week. Think like a local and do some research. You won’t just save money but have a better experience.
- You may have slightly answered this question already but briefly describe what role do you think social media/twitter has played in propagating travel among common folks?
Scott – Social media has allowed the common traveler to communicate directly with airlines, hotels, zoos, museums and other attractions. It has taken some of the stress out of travel but providing detailed answers to custom questions that guidebooks often can’t answer. Does the cafe at the museum cater to people with peanut allergies? I’m traveling for my honeymoon, any chance of an upgrade? Twitter allows all travellers to get answers to questions that might have never easily received.
- Right! Finally as this is “GlobeTrotters on Twitter”, which are your 3 must follow twitter accounts?
Scott – @DavidJBarger – It’s nice to see an airline CEO Tweet and actually have fun things to say.
@NYCAviation – These guys are plugged into the air traffic and plane spotting communities.
@AP – Sure I work here, but it always amazes me how many interesting stories from all corners of the globe there are.
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- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brett Snyder (The Cranky Flier) (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Arndt (Everything-Everywhere) (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Brian Kelly (The Points Guy) (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Gary Leff (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Johnny Jet (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Shashank Nigam (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Rick Ingersoll (Frugal Travel Guy) (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter | Ben Schlappig (One Mile at a Time) (vishal1mehra.com)
- GlobeTrotters on Twitter – Devesh Agarwal (Bangalore Aviation) (vishal1mehra.com)
Photo Courtesy : Airliners.net
With my last post, The Social Dutchman, I reached readers from 24 countries with inspiring feedback, providing me the urge to do better with my next. A benchmark was set for me & for over 2 weeks I thought about how to engage with more geeks like me, whether those are Social Media, Digital Marketing, Technology or in the case of this post, Aviation Geeks, or as they are called on twitter, #AVGeek.
There would have been other lists done before, maybe yes, then what value addition I bring to the table (& as a Digital Marketer, I get asked this question on daily basis) Well my simple answer is, I bring my own experience of being an ardent aviation reader for over 3 years to the table, during which I have been to over 120 aviation websites and blogs.
I have been fond of airplanes for as long as I remember, being in awe of pilots walking to their craft, clicking pictures with crappy cellphone cameras, reading every word of safety manuals in seat pocket, hell I probably was the biggest fan of Pan Am, the show which abc dropped, nerdy stuff like that but I delved more into the industry with the arrival of twitter, my favorite social network as I mentioned in the last post as well.
So this list compiles 7 of the best commercial aviation related web resources (listed alphabetically) that I know of, hopefully enthusiasts, from noob to pro level, all of them would find something they like. Your comments are welcome at the bottom of this post.
Although Airline Business is a monthly international magazine for senior airline management, it also has a blog on the flightglobal blog page, focusing on “a sideways look at the airline industry”.
13 other blogs jostle for attention on the same page, including the famous FlightBlogger. With such rich content & renowned contributors, Airline Business Blog has carved a loyal following for itself by providing unparalleled coverage on Airline News, Interviews, Infographics & well researched opinion pieces.
Max Kingsley-Jones article on Boeing’s 787 at this years Farnborough show has been 1 of my favorite off late, summing up the Blog for me by being precise, studied & descriptive.
Although Arun’s blog is full of marvelous information about aviation & his trip reports (Read this with a tissue: His report on last kingfisher international flight), this article, more so a plane spotter’s guide, as Arun explained me himself, has been “one of the best things I have ever done in my life”
Differentiating between an Airbus & a Boeing aircraft is one of the most important things for an enthusiast, a conversation starter & a handy way to show off among your friends, I can vouch for the last one.
Arun wanted to know more himself & realized there wasn’t any resource online suitable enough for him, so he wrote his own guide, took him 2 weeks but clearly it was well worth it & we can consume those 2 weeks of hard work, complete with explanatory pictures, in less than 40 minutes.
This is where I come when I need commentaries on issues pertaining to Asian aviation scene in large. Their location, Hong Kong, one of the world’s biggest aviation hubs, certainly helps in their coverage of stories.
Although Aspire Aviation is primary an aerospace consultancy business, their analysis section piques my interest with every visit, Daniel Tsang, the founder & chief analyst of the site told me he wanted to start a blog where he could express his views about industry developments & with time they added editors increasing the diversity offered.
Daniel also realized that Aspire could provide qualitative analysis for free, instead of hefty fees charged by others, as information cost fell significantly & they were in a unique position to provide Asian perspective to issues.
Since that day, without a shadow of a doubt, Bangalore Aviation has been my first stop for everything related to Indian Aviation news & analysis; turns out hundreds of thousands of other enthusiasts feel the same way.
Devesh, joined off late by Vinay Bhaskara, has this uncanny way of making the industry approachable for newbies, as well as make the pros feel at home, with their concise approach & detailed analysis. I, especially look forward to Airlines financial analysis, which Vinay undertakes for the site.
As Devesh mentioned during our interaction, Aviation has been in his blood since childhood, he has flown aircraft for 24 years himself & advised Ministry of Civil Aviation on BIAL airport, giving him an edge which very few can boast of in this beat.
I’m not at all surprised that Crankyflier.com usually figures in the top aviation blogs list everywhere, as Brett Snyder has been responsible for one of the world’s best online destination for people’s thrust (literally) for aviation industry.
My regular lunchtime reading aviation tweets usually have a link to a latest piece on cranky & I marvel at the ease with which the articles envelop the reader with excitement & information.
Brett calls himself the President & Chief Airline Dork for Cranky Flier LLC, & that dorkiness has been with him since he was a kid, like going to LAX to pick up airline timetables & birthday gifts which led to plane spotting. He has worked with airlines, travel companies & now consults on various projects, along with running a personal concierge service.
You should visit crankyflier for insights & happenings in American aviation industry, & checking up on Brett’s regular articles for Conde Nast Daily Traveler & other blogs.
Simpliflying is probably the world’s best combination of marketing & aviation for me. Shashank Nigam’s (CEO, SimpliFlying) quote during our discussion explains it best, “Our brand engagement with a can of Coke is about 10 minutes. With Starbucks, it’s about 2 hours. But with an airline, it’s anywhere from 2-24 hours. And that’s just within the cabin. So why do airlines keep applying the same marketing principles as Coke and Starbucks, despite seldom turning a profit?”
& That’s why we have Simpliflying today, right from explaining how weather problems are airline brand business, to key influencers making a difference, Shashank & his team have explained all this & more through easy to understand infographics, video content, presentations, interviews, webinars, articles & even an iPhone app.
I came across thepointsguy while I was preparing myself for a business trip to US & it has quickly become my go-to site for information on frequent flyer programs, credit card & hotel deals.
Although I would admit that the site is mainly focused on American readers, it still has some great resources for overall understanding about collection points, like The Beginners Guide, which has step-by-step instructions to become an addict.
For my travel, I was able to extract two important links concerning my hotel bookings, for example: I got to know how I could earn up to 5x air miles (in my case, it was KLM Flying Blue) by staying at Hyatt Reston, & another link helped me in deciding between going for Hotels.com free nights or Hotel Points offered at their sites. (I went with the latter of course).
During my communication with Brian Kelly’s office, the founder of the site, I was able to clearly see that unlike other similar sites, he disseminates information to his readers in a more intuitive, easy to understand & most importantly street smart way to work effectively with the system.
It has inspired me to travel one day in J class with a bag full of miles & points, instead of cash.
I would like to mention Live From A Lounge, hosted as part of Boarding Area, an India dedicated site for Credit Card, Airport Lounges, Hotel & Airline miles, run by AJ, I certainly enjoy reading his reports & he answers reader questions frequently as well.
Update: I have received an email from AJ, requesting for some additions to this summary :
LFAL is an India-dedicated site covering Indian aviation and hotels, focusing on how to travel smart and in style from India by making the best use of deals, miles, points and credit cards offered in India. Live From A Lounge frequently features in the Top 20 travel blogs worldwide as per Technorati, the global authority on blog rankings.
This Post is also featured on Bangalore Aviation, as a slightly altered Guest Post.