Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa, Emirates to fly A-380s, Tata venture set to take off

The domestic aviation sector may be sputtering, but the ensuing fiscal may see new generation aircraft and new airlines flying in Indian skies.

Singapore Airlines, Lufthansa and Emirates are preparing to wing in A-380s to India, after the Civil Aviation Ministry last month lifted restrictions on the super-jumbo, double-decker aircraft flying to India.

Currently, four airports – Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore – are capable of handling these aircraft. SilkAir, the regional wing of Singapore Airlines, which is in transition from an Airbus to an all Boeing fleet, will fly in the next-generation Boeing 737-800s in the second half of the year, and later the 737 Max 8s.

New fleet

The Tata Sons-Singapore Airlines joint venture is cruising closer to take off and may join Indian skies with a new fleet of A-320s during the year.

David Lau, the new General Manager (India) of Singapore Airlines, said the carrier will apply to the aviation ministry for permission to fly the A-380s to India within a month.

“We are currently studying the commercial viability of operating these super-jumbo aircraft to India, including demand and airport-handling infrastructure. We may have to merge two existing flights to bring in a single A380s because of their large capacities,” he said.

These aircraft can carry 850 passengers in an all-economy model, while those with three-class seating could take aboard about 600 people.

Handling facilities

Lau is of the opinion that not all the four airports selected for the aircraft currently have adequate handling facilities.

“Ground-handling equipment will have to be ramped up in a couple of these airports to service A380s, an issue we are studying as part of the overall viability study,” he said.

The carrier has a fleet of 19 A380s, with five more on order. Full-service carrier SilkAir, which made its public debut of the next-generation Boeing 737-800s at the Singapore air show to mark its 25{+t}{+h} anniversary, is acquiring 23 such aircraft and another 31 Max 8s.

“We will get the second aircraft next month — a total of eight are expected by next fiscal. We are contemplating to deploy these from airports such as Hyderabad and Kochi in India,” Lau said.

While SilkAir operates 44 flights from India every week, its parent Singapore Airlines does 63 flights a week from 11 cities, including 21 each from Mumbai and Delhi.

Lau is generally happy with the lifting of some restrictions in the Air Service Agreements (or traffic rights) between India and Singapore, which now has an allotment of over 28,000 seats a week

(This article was published on February 17, 2014)
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