Op­er­a­tions of A380s in In­dia

Business Traveller (India) - - CONTENTS - WORDS AKANKSHA MAKER

The A380 — the largest pas­sen­ger air­liner in the world — landed for the first time in New Delhi, In­dia on May 6, 2007, af­ter a nine-hour flight from Toulouse. The double-decker dra­mat­i­cally en­cir­cled twice over Indira Gandhi In­ter­na­tional Air­port as spec­ta­tors cheered in uni­son. Air­bus stirred suf­fi­cient cu­rios­ity with this colos­sal air­craft that ex­ceeded the breadth of Delhi’s run­way. To make pro­vi­sions for its ar­rival, the grass be­side the run­ways had to be trimmed.

The cer­e­mony at the New Delhi air­port held to mark the oc­ca­sion was ad­dressed by the chair­man of the now de­funct King­fisher Air­lines, Vi­jay Mallya and the cur­rent chief op­er­at­ing of­fi­cer (cus­tomers) at Air­bus, John Leahy. This was also when Leahy ac­knowl­edged the or­der of five A380s and five A350s by the for­mer. Air In­dia was next to show in­ter­est in this air­craft type in 2009, as the na­tional car­rier as­pired to meet its an­tic­i­pated rise in de­mand in 2012.

What fol­lowed was a se­ries of un­for­tu­nate events that de­terred the of­fi­cial ar­rival of the A380 in the In­dian avi­a­tion in­dus­try. Air­bus can­celled its or­der with King­fisher Air­lines af­ter the air­line shut shop due to mon­u­men­tal losses in Oc­to­ber 2012. Air In­dia’s A380 or­der didn’t ma­te­ri­alise ei­ther as it fo­cussed on in­duct­ing more nar­row­bod­ied air­craft to fly do­mes­tic routes in­stead. Fur­ther, the Min­istry of Civil Avi­a­tion placed an in­def­i­nite ban on in­ter­na­tional air­lines fly­ing their A380s in In­dia. The pro­hi­bi­tion was the re­sult of con­cerns that for­eign air­lines could grab a high share of in­ter­na­tional traf­fic with their mas­sive A380s, hurt­ing state-run Air In­dia. The lack of in­fra­struc­ture at air­ports to han­dle the air­craft was another cause for the ban.

The be­gin­ning of 2014 saw a path­break­ing de­vel­op­ment by the Min­istry of Civil Avi­a­tion, (af­ter con­sul­ta­tions with the Direc­torate Gen­eral of Civil Avi­a­tion (DGCA)), when it lifted the ban on A380s fly­ing to In­dia. “Now, flights of A380 to In­dia will be al­lowed to [land at] air­ports, which are equipped to han­dle them. The op­er­a­tion of A380s will help air­ports gen­er­ate more rev­enue, give more com­fort­able and lux­u­ri­ous travel to pas­sen­gers, lib­er­alise the civil avi­a­tion mi­lieu in In­dia and boost the image of In­dian civil avi­a­tion in the in­ter­na­tional mar­ket. As per avail­able in­for­ma­tion, Sin­ga­pore Air­lines, Emi­rates and Lufthansa are in­ter­ested in op­er­at­ing A380 air­craft in In­dia on var­i­ous in­ter­na­tional routes,” said a Jan­uary 2014 press re­lease by the min­istry.

DGCA an­nounced that the A380s would be served by four In­dian air­ports ca­pa­ble of han­dling them — Delhi, Mumbai, Ben­galuru and Hy­der­abad. Of these, only the Mumbai and Delhi air­ports have wel­comed the A380 in the coun­try as of now. “The de­sign for Ben­galuru Air­port to ac­com­mo­date large air­craft is un­der­way. This new run­way is ex­pected to be op­er­a­tional in the last quar­ter of 2019,” said a spokesper­son of Ban­ga­lore In­ter­na­tional Air­port.


Fol­low­ing this de­vel­op­ment, in May 2014 Sin­ga­pore Air­lines an­nounced that it would launch its A380 in In­dia on routes from Mumbai and Delhi to Sin­ga­pore. Re­plac­ing the Boe­ing 777 on one of its two daily di­rect flights to each city, its A380 ac­com­mo­dates 471 pas­sen­gers across first class suites, and busi­ness and econ­omy classes, about 63 per cent more than B777’s to­tal pas­sen­ger ca­pac­ity. “We have been keen to op­er­ate the Air­bus 380 to In­dia and are glad that the Air Ser­vices Agree­ment (ASA) between Sin­ga­pore and In­dia now al­lows us to do so,” said Lee Wen Fen, se­nior vice pres­i­dent, mar­ket­ing and plan­ning at Sin­ga­pore Air­lines. Sin­ga­pore’s na­tional car­rier is the first air­line in the world to have op­er­ated the A380 on Oc­to­ber 25, 2007 with the launch of ser­vices between Sin­ga­pore and Syd­ney.

In Jan­uary 2018, Sin­ga­pore Air­lines an­nounced that it would dis­con­tinue the A380 on the Mumbai-Sin­ga­pore route for two months this year. “On the Mumbai route we will be op­er­at­ing the Boe­ing 777-300 ER (ex­tended range) dur­ing the months of July and Au­gust, as the A380 is be­ing utilised on a dif­fer­ent route due to op­er­a­tional re­quire­ments. [In those two months] it will be de­ployed to Lon­don,”

said a spokesper­son of Sin­ga­pore Air­lines to The Times of In­dia.

Last year, in Novem­ber 2017 the air­line spent a whop­ping US$850 mil­lion to trans­form its A380 cab­ins. The air­line has ap­pointed Air­bus for this retro­fit pro­gramme. Work on cabin cus­tomi­sa­tion on all its 14 A380 air­craft will be­gin later this year and is ex­pected to com­plete by 2020. The new prod­ucts aim to make all cabin classes roomier, ac­com­mo­dat­ing 471 pas­sen­gers — six pri­vate suites, 78 busi­ness class seats on the up­per deck, and 44 pre­mium econ­omy and 343 econ­omy class seats on the main deck. Let’s hope these air­craft will land back on In­dian soil.


In Jan­uary 2014, soon af­ter the re­moval of the ban re­strict­ing A380 air­craft to land in In­dia, Emi­rates an­nounced plans to de­ploy this gi­ant air­plane to the coun­try. Al­most six months later, on July 22, an of­fi­cial press re­lease con­firmed that Emi­rates had com­menced its first sched­uled Air­bus A380 ser­vice to In­dia with a daily flight between Dubai and Mumbai (flight re­view on page 79). “Mumbai was one of the first des­ti­na­tions on our route net­work when we launched in 1985. Dubai and Mumbai share a rich ta­pes­try of part­ner­ships, busi­ness and cul­ture. In the past 29 years, we have flown over 42 mil­lion pas­sen­gers between In­dia and the UAE and so it is quite fit­ting that the city be­comes our 29th A380 des­ti­na­tion. Now our cus­tomers on the route can ex­pe­ri­ence the lux­ury, the quiet­ness and the out­stand­ing ser­vice on-board an Emi­rates A380, in ad­di­tion to the other four daily ser­vices we will con­tinue to op­er­ate to the city,” said Emi­rates’ Ahmed Khoory, se­nior vice pres­i­dent, com­mer­cial op­er­a­tions, West Asia and In­dian Ocean.

This is the sec­ond air­line to land its A380 in Mumbai’s Ch­ha­tra­p­ati Shivaji In­ter­na­tional air­port (CSIA), af­ter Sin­ga­pore Air­lines. Hy­der­abad has re­ceived an Emi­rates A380 air­craft too, but as an emer­gency land­ing on its Shamshabad tar­mac that’s equipped to han­dle Code F (B747-8/A380-800) air­craft move­ments. It has also wel­comed the air­plane for the In­dia Avi­a­tion Show on two other oc­ca­sions.

As of today, Emi­rates owns 96 A380 air­craft in its fleet and flies them to 48 des­ti­na­tions around the world. The air­line will in­tro­duce a new A380 cabin in­te­rior upon re­ceiv­ing the air­craft from its lat­est or­der for the double-deck type in 2020. The op­er­a­tion of A380s will help air­ports gen­er­ate more rev­enue and give more com­fort­able and lux­u­ri­ous travel to pas­sen­gers


On Novem­ber 18, 2014, a wa­ter can­non salute and cel­e­bra­tions wel­comed Lufthansa’s first A380 flight car­ry­ing 580 pas­sen­gers to Indira Gandhi In­ter­na­tional Air­port, Delhi. A month prior to this, the Ger­man air­line made the of­fi­cial an­nounce­ment that it would be com­menc­ing two daily A380 ser­vices to Mumbai and Delhi that would last through the end of its win­ter sched­ule. The third air­line to bring its two-level Air­bus to In­dian shores, Lufthansa planned to re­move its A380s from its New York JFK and Bei­jing routes for de­ploy­ment to In­dia. Be­fore this, its Mumbai and Delhi routes were op­er­ated by its B747-400 and B747-8 re­spec­tively.

The planned A380 ser­vice to Mumbai was how­ever can­celled as the air­port could only ac­com­mo­date one A380 at a time due to its sin­gle park­ing bay for the A380 and twin-level aer­o­bridge, which was oc­cu­pied by Emi­rates. The Delhi-Frankfurt ser­vice took off and con­tin­ues to ply pas­sen­gers between the two cap­i­tal cities on the A380. Plans to bring the A380 to Mumbai resur­faced once again in June 2016 when Wolf­gang Will, Lufthansa's di­rec­tor (South Asia) told The Times of In­dia that “their en­deav­our will be to de­ploy an A380 on this route from next sum­mer”. How­ever in­stead of the A380, Lufthansa de­ployed its A350 between Mu­nich and Mumbai last Fe­bru­ary. You can read the re­view of this route in our Septem­ber 2017 is­sue.


Fairly re­cent com­pared to the other air­lines, Eti­had Air­ways only brought its A380 to In­dia in 2016. With the launch of The Res­i­dence, the UAE-based car­rier in­tro­duced a new di­men­sion to the busi­ness of lux­ury cab­ins. On May 5, 2016, with a Bol­ly­wood-style flash mob, dance and fes­tiv­i­ties, the air­line an­nounced the of­fi­cial ar­rival of its A380 to Mumbai.

In­dia’s fi­nan­cial cap­i­tal be­came the fifth des­ti­na­tion in Eti­had Air­ways’ net­work to re­ceive the A380, fol­low­ing Lon­don, Syd­ney, New York and Mel­bourne. The air­craft up­grade was launched with daily sched­uled flights between Abu Dhabi and Mumbai. Pas­sen­gers trav­el­ling to New York from Mumbai could en­joy the com­fort of the A380 to Abu Dhabi, use the air­line’s pre-clear­ance fa­cil­ity for the US at the Abu Dhabi air­port, and fly another A380 to New York.

“Bring­ing our flag­ship prod­uct to In­dia with ad­di­tional seat ca­pac­ity demon­strates our over­whelm­ing un­der­tak­ing to one of the world’s fastest grow­ing economies, help­ing ful­fil grow­ing de­mand and meet­ing trav­ellers’ ex­pec­ta­tions for su­pe­rior prod­ucts and ser­vices. Our com­mit­ment to In­dia is un­equiv­o­cal, hav­ing built a ro­bust and suc­cess­ful route net­work with our own ded­i­cated ser­vices and those of our part­ner Jet Air­ways which, com­bined, give us 20 per cent mar­ket share, mak­ing us [one of ] the largest con­trib­u­tors of pas­sen­ger traf­fic to and from In­dia, big­ger than any other in­ter­na­tional air­line,” said James Ho­gan, pres­i­dent and chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer at Eti­had Air­ways.

The flag car­rier of the UAE flew the Mumbai-Abu Dhabi route with its A380 for a year and stopped it on July 1, 2017. The air­line said that A380 flights EY 203 and 204 between Abu Dhabi and Mumbai would now be op­er­ated by an A340-600 air­craft. The A380 will be re­de­ployed on the Abu Dhabi-Paris route dur­ing the peak sum­mer travel months. Sources said that this was be­cause the air­line was un­able to fill up its seats on The Res­i­dence from In­dia, prompt­ing it to swap its A380 with its A340-600 air­craft. “The ad­just­ments are part of Eti­had Air­ways’ sea­sonal plan­ning of sched­ules based on mar­ket de­mand,” said the air­line in a state­ment.

Hy­der­abad has re­ceived an Emi­rates A380 air­craft too, but as an emer­gency land­ing on its Shamshabad tar­mac

ABOVE: Lufthansa's A380 RIGHT: Eti­had Air­ways' A380 busi­ness class

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