Lufthansa German Airlines which launched the inaugural flight of the Airbus A380 – the world's largest aircraft – to San Francisco on May 10, is disappointed that the Indian government's permission to fly the superjumbo to Delhi has not yet been forthcoming.

The company says that it is in a position to do a quick launch of the A380 to Delhi's T3 terminal, as soon as the government's nod is received. Speaking to a group of Indian journalists, who were on a trip to San Francisco sponsored by Lufthansa, Mr Carsten Spohr, CEO, Lufthansa, said: “We would love to fly the A380 to India, and are waiting for Delhi to open up”.

Up in the air

It has been around two years since the government of Germany first approached the Indian government asking it to allow Lufthansa to fly the A380 to India. Follow-ups including a recent meeting of the German transport minister with the Aviation Ministry has not yet had the desired results.

As things stand, the Indian government seems to be vacillating on whether to open up Indian skies to the A380. Earlier, in his interaction with journalists in Delhi, Mr Axel Hilgers, General Manager-South Asia, Lufthansa, said, “We have received neither a yes nor a no.”

Reports suggest that the government is not yet inclined to let the A380 fly into India. Industry watchers point out that this could be a result of fears that a superjumbo like the A380 could eat into the international load factors of domestic players such as Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines.

Estimates suggest that foreign airlines now ferry around 70 per cent of the air traffic from India to foreign shores. Permission to Lufthansa to operate the A380 could open the floodgates to similar requests from other international airline majors such as Emirates, Singapore Airlines and Qantas which have the A380 in their fleet.

Delhi as hub

Lufthansa believes that the advent of the A380 in Indian skies would benefit the entire gamut of stakeholders including passengers, airlines, and the Delhi airport. It stresses that the A380 is more passenger-and-environmentally friendly, consumes much less fuel, and is a much quieter aircraft. Mr Carsten Spohr also feels that that Delhi with its T3 terminal is well-positioned to serve as the major hub for foreign travel in and out of India. Presently, a lot many Indian travellers use the Dubai airport, which Lufthansa thinks is an artificial hub. It points out that the A380 with its scale and visibility would be the right step in the direction of transforming Delhi's T3 terminal, equipped as it is with modern infrastructure, into a major hub.

Lufthansa, which has named its seven A380s so far after its hubs in Germany (Frankfurt, Munich) and major cities it flies to, such as Tokyo, Beijing and Johannesburg, hopes to baptise one of its newer A380's “Delhi” soon. However, there's no saying how long it would need to wait for the christening.

(This article was published on May 17, 2011)
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