IndiGo: Thins seats, widens savings.

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IndiGo Seat Change

Indigo – the Indian airline known to religiously adopt best low cost carrier practices, thanks to its founders who brought with them unequalled relevant airline experience, has taken yet another step to lower costs, and in part increase passenger comfort.

IndiGo flies one aircraft type- The A320-232, with some of the newer ones featuring fuel saving wingtip modifications known as ‘Sharklets’. As of date, the A320 can seat a maximum of 180 passengers in an all-economy cabin layout. With such a configuration, all seats, with the exception of those at row 1, 12 and 13-the later two being emergency exit row seats- feature a 29 inch seat pitch.

Of the 29 inches in seat pitch, around 4 inches may be subtracted due to the thickness of the seat, leaving an effective room of about 25 inches, or 2′ 1″. For an average Indian with a height of around 171cm and a Body Mass Index (BMI) of 24, this leaves between two to three inches between the knee and the seat pocket in front. Magazine thickness in the seat pocket affects how much ‘knee’ room is finally available.

With SpiceJet talking about its latest cabin product SpiceMAX, where the first five rows of most of its Boeing 737-800 & -900 aircraft feature a generous 35 inches of seat-pitch, or about 31 inches from the backrest to the seat pocket in front – or half a foot more than IndiGo’s offering, IndiGo may have felt threatened by its inability to match such a product for its passengers. The Flying Engineer learns that the airline has recently changed its passenger seats to the Dragonfly from SICMA Aero, which manufactures and sells aircraft seats under ZODIAC Aerospace group. The airline previously flew the model ‘5600’ seats from Weber seats – the company which in 2012 became Zodiac Seats U.S. LLC, which is now a subsidiary of Zodiac Aerospace of France, and is one of the largest manufacturers of airline seats in the world.

The new ‘Dragonfly’ seats offer a double advantage and a disadvantage.

The new seats are thinner, and lighter. Thinner seats free up more legroom. The seats offer between and inch and two of extra legroom. The lighter seats shave off 700kgs from the airline’s aircraft’s operating empty weight. 700kgs on a Bangalore-Delhi sector of 1000NM translates to a saving of about 50kgs of fuel per such flight. The savings are as low as 0.6% for a short (200NM), full flight, and 0.8% for a long (1000NM), full flight, and can touch 1% when load factors are lower. With savings between 10kg and 50kg of fuel, dependant on the flight, an assumed 20kg of saving per flight, on average, translates to a saving of 3.65 million kg of fuel per year, assuming 500 daily flights. This translates to INR 34 Crore per year, with an average fuel price of INR 74.69 per litre.

The disadvantage, as reported by a recent flyer on board IndiGo, is the discomfort associated with such seats. The manufacturer describes, “With its ergonomic stamped backrest, the Dragonfly offers tremendous operational savings, fewer parts and increased cabin density – all the while adapting to finicky passengers’ growing desire for improved living space”. However, comfort isn’t stressed upon as much as the 5600’s, and the thinner cushioning has been reported as relatively uncomfortable.

Further, unlike the model 5600, the Dragonfly seats may not be IFE capable.

The seats on board IndiGo’s A320s are 18 inches wide, inner armrest to inner armrest. Airbus offers customers an option of 17 inches seat width with a 25 inch wide aisle – a configuration designed for quick turnaround times, or 18 inches seat width and a 20 inch wide aisle – a configuration designed for enhanced passenger comfort.

To be fair, the seats on SpiceJet’s 737s – as are all 737s, world over- are only 17 inches wide. Barring the first five rows of ‘SpiceMAX’ seats, and seats on the emergency exit rows, most other seats on SpiceJet’s 737s feature a 29 inches seat pitch, which offer a passenger 25 inches from the backrest to the seat pocket, and 17 inches in seat width. IndiGo’s seats, however, offer one to two inch more legroom, and one inch more seat width, catering to the ever increasing population of those with above-normal BMIs. The new seats allow the airline to offer more space uniformly across the cabin, while saving money, too.

An eye on costs is what the airline is known for: the airline has a very strict fuel policy, wherein the airline, and not the captain, decides on how much extra fuel must be uplifted. This has been possible due to a strong analysis of historical fuel data. The airline also incurs a cost of between INR 4 and 5 for every kg of potable water that is uplifted. The capacity of the potable water tank is 200 litres, but the airline monitored water consumption for every sector, and now only fills between 40 litres and 120 litres, depending on the sector. As a result, the airline saves between INR 320 and INR 640 per sector. Assuming a very conservative saving of INR 300 per sector – the airline saves, over 500 flights a day and over a year, almost INR 5.5 Cr.

Savings – possible through constant innovation, quick adoption of fuel saving technologies, constant analysis, great strategies, and strict implementation.

Thanks to Oscar Victor for certain data.

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AirAsia India’s Second Aircraft

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AAI A320AAI_9M-AJFAirAsia India received its second aircraft, which landed at Hyderabad at around 13:30 IST (UTC + 5:30) on the 26th of August, 2014. The aircraft flew in from Kuala Lumpur.

The second aircraft is an A320-216SL, but not brand new like the previous aircraft. This A320, MSN 6034, was delivered on 24th March 2014 to AirAsia Malaysia, and registered 9M-AJF. The aircraft has been with AirAsia Malaysia for almost five months.

The aircraft sports the same livery as AirAsia India’s first aircraft, registered VT-ATF. The only changes to the exterior will be the replacement of the Malaysian flag with the Indian flag, and a change of registration from 9M- to VT-. The registration is expected to be VT-ATB.

TweetThe Flying Engineer had, on 19th August, guessed 9M-AJF as one of two aircraft to likely join the AirAsia India fleet.

The second aircraft is almost as new as the first aircraft. With AirAsia Malaysia contracting its operations, many of its aircraft are underutilized, enabling the parent airline to offload one aircraft to its Indian associate.

With the second aircraft joining the fleet, AirAsia India will fly an additional pattern September 5th onwards. The pattern will include flights to Goa, Chandigarh, and Jaipur from Bangalore.

AirAsia India was to have launched the virgin Bangalore-Chandigarh route. IndiGo, however, stole that opportunity from AirAsia India, by introducing a Bangalore-Chandigarh service September 1st onwards.

Roping in Air Traffic Controllers to help you save fuel, better OTP, and improve safety.

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ATC twr 2The communication between air traffic controllers and pilots is key to efficiency and safety in the air traffic system (ATS). Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) are looked upon as managers : managing the flow of air traffic, and relaying crisp, and necessary messages to pilots.

Effective management is only possible when there is a deep understanding of the technicalities of the lower levels. A manager is always at a ‘higher level’, and decisions are based on a ‘lower levels’ of understanding. Effective management of air traffic is possible only when an ATCO understands, and not just communicates to, a pilot.

Accidents in the past have been due to gaps in understanding between ATCOs and pilots. Fuel burn and on time performance (OTP) are heavily dependent on the decisions taken by an ATCO. Once ATCOs understand aircraft, and aircraft performance, and fuel burn for every extra nautical mile and minute they make airplanes fly, things fall better in place: airline economics, better airport efficiency, and enhanced flight safety.

Read here the steps taken to close the gap between pilots and ATCOs- Jump-seating in scheduled airlines on select routes, by way of Familiarization Flights, which airlines must arrange for.

Could SpiceJet spring a surprise with its Q1 Results?

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Triple_SGIt is widely believed in the industry that SpiceJet may post a Q1 loss. Some were convinced, based on personal estimates. Others heard whispers. But, there could be some hope. The Flying Engineer redoes some numbers to show how SpiceJet could (but not a guarantee that it will-this is purely an academic exercise) spring a surprise on a nation that is so used to seeing the red airline in the red.

The turning point

The airline started steering a different course with Chief Operating Officer Sanjiv Kapoor: the classy man heading SpiceJet at the operational front. The bigger turning point was when he restructured his top management, and bringing on board the new Chief Commercial Officer Kaneshwaran Avili, who is ex-AirAsia and ex-Tiger. To some of us who watch the industry, we are in absolute awe of Avili, not only for what he’s done, but for what he’s doing. There were other posts that got a fresh nameplate, but the biggest changes are the COO and the CCO.

Sanjiv, with his legacy experience, is all set to change the brand (image and offering) of SpiceJet, positioning itself as not a low cost carrier but a classy low cost carrier that caters, however limited, to the business crowd. Not surprising, as corporate flyers make most of SpiceJet’s bread and butter.

Avili, on the other hand, is keen on aligning the low cost carrier with global best practices for such airlines.

In short, Sanjiv caters to the first few rows of the aircraft, while Avili tries to work with the later rows in the cabin.

A great combination, in our humble opinion.

Results

You could have the best team, but in the end, all that ever matters are results. This is where the optimists and the pessimists are divided. For one, media reports (and verified true) of employees not receiving their form 16 from the airline is making most wonder if the airline has only sunk deeper, exhibiting the symptoms that plagued Kingfisher just before its downfall. These are the whisper driven crowd.

The optimists-some of whom (and who are just a handful) have reason to believe that the airline’s results – numbers – may have a different story to say, and maybe even spring a surprise on everyone.

To the numbers we March.

Load Factors

Passenger Load Factor TrendlineBeyond March-and before July make up the first quarter of the financial year. As shown in a previous analysis of SpiceJet by The Flying Engineer, there is a strong correlation between the passenger load factors and operational profits. April was a disappointing month for Spicejet (and few others), with domestic load factors that slumped compared to the previous year-for all carriers except Jet Airways and its low cost arm JetLite. In May, SpiceJet recorded and increase, and in June, displayed the best load factor increase performance, while IndiGo has been the only carrier to be in the negative for all three months of Q1.

Overall Market Demand

The second month of Q1-May-is typically the peak season for domestic travel. Yet, all carriers except Jet, Jet Lite, and SpiceJet reported a drop in load factors. Was there a slump in the demand for travel?

Year on Year (YoY), the Q1 of FY2014-15 recorded a 7% growth in domestic passenger traffic, while international recorded a 10% growth in traffic. Air Costa has grabbed less than 1% of market share, making us disregard the airline as a contributor to capacity increase. Overall, among the legacy full service and LCC carriers, capacity has increased far greater than demand, leading to low load factors.

But SpiceJet has done the opposite of IndiGo-it has slashed capacity in terms of seats, and ASKs. By pulling out six aircraft from its fleet, and with one Q400 temporarily grounded, it has deployed lesser capacity, but has managed an interesting result.

Efficiency of Commercial & Operations

Revenue and Cost Area changesSpiceJet’s fleet has shrunk from Q1 FY13 – sending off 2 Boeing 737s, and preparing six to be sent back to their lessors: 2 scheduled, and four early return, while adding 5 new 737 aircraft, including the latest 737- the infamous ‘Red Chilli’ with a special livery. Compared to Q1 FY13 SpiceJet seems to have had 3 more airplanes on its books, but three less operational aircraft (as six were being prepared for return). One Q400 may have been down for a fairly long period.

While the available fleet has shrunk, very interestingly, SpiceJet has performed positively with respect to a YoY growth when it comes to domestic passengers and cargo carried. These are sources of revenue. It has also shown a negative growth as far as flights, seat capacity, and available seat-kilometers are concerned. These three are sources of costs, which means the costs have reduced. These are numbers from the airline.

Overall, revenue indicators have grown, while cost indicators have shrunk. This can only mean one thing as far as direct operations are concerned: profits. And a similar encouraging trend is also seen in its international operations, which are just 10% of the airline’s overall deployed capacity (ASK). There, the fall in the number of passengers is small compared to the reduction in international ASK.

Overall, in Q1 FY14, SpiceJet flew just 23,400 passengers lesser than Q1 FY13, or just 0.7% lower. Which is impressive, in the face of a much higher airline capacity reduction.

Cargo carried in Q1 FY14 is much higher than Q1 FY13, showing an increase of 10%, or 1,868 tonnes extra.

Ticket Sales & Promos

SG_OffersOf those direct operation figures, as far as passengers are concerned, some seats are low yield seats, as these were promo seats sold across five sale campaigns: ‘Super Summer Sale’, ‘Super Holi Sale’, and three ‘Fly New Network’ promos.

The Summer sale was more an early sales drive, not exactly a ‘sale’. The ‘Super Holi Sale’ offered INR 1,999 tickets in Q4 FY13 for travel mid June onward (bookings 90 days in advance) – or just 1/6th of Q1-in June. Three ‘Fly New Network’ sales in Q1 FY14 were for flights in June, July and August, of which two were for travel only in 2/9th of Q1-in June. Since April and May are peak domestic travel seasons, no significantly low ‘promo’ seats were offered in those two months. Which means that the higher load factors in the month of May are largely a result of normal sales.

But in June, SpiceJet recorded incredible domestic load factors, making it the second highest (after Go Air), allowing the red airline to lead IndiGo in occupancy. Compared to Q1 FY13, the June domestic load factor in Q1 FY14 rose by 8.1% – or 107,466 passengers. If we assume all these passengers paid around INR 1,999, which means the airline took home a minimum of INR 1,500 (After UDF and ST), then the airline’s average yield (domestic) may have fallen by around INR 120, assuming an average passenger yield of INR 5,000 for regular sales. If one is to disregard the 10-lakh seats SpiceJet offered at INR 2013, which included travel in April 2013, then the promos in 2014 may have translated to a passenger revenue reduction of INR 37Cr, compared to Q1 FY13.

This does not mean the airline is losing money because of promo sales. Had these promos not been in place, the airline may have flown lesser passengers, taking a larger hit on its direct passenger revenue through lower sales and lesser stimulation. IndiGo, for instance, carried 687,000 more passengers in Q1 FY14 compared to last year, but added 1.24 million seats, leading to seat capacity deployment that was beyond demand.  But considering SpiceJet has managed to fly more passengers with lesser capacity, probably in part because of the changes within the airline- new service, better cleanliness, better service, improved frequency, better timings, and better on-time-performance, the airline may not have sold as many promo tickets as estimated, but probably sold more regular fare tickets, bettering the 37Cr estimate.

In addition, SpiceJet held 11 sales campaigns in Q1 FY- thanks to Avili who took over the role of CCO in Q1 FY14- of which all included flights in Q2 Fy14, and only three included few flights in Q1 FY14 (The Fly New Network sales). Since statistically, demand in Q2 of any FY is weaker, more seats were up for sales. With an approximate 3.75 million seats flown (offered) in each quarter, and conservatively assuming 10% of it was up for promo sales, more than 500,000 tickets may have been sold at an average price of INR 1,777, leading to an additional revenue of INR 100 Crore.

That 100CR sales were for tickets that need to be serviced in Q2 FY14 and beyond. This only means that the airline has sold more tickets than it has serviced in Q1 FY14, leading to more revenues from operations, while not incurring the costs associated with servicing those ticket sales.

With the flash sales triggering a market stimulation, approximately INR 10-50 Crore or more worth tickets may have been sold purely through stimulation.

Pushing the Demand Season

LF SG vs 6EThe flash sales have had two effects: shoring up capital, and destroying the notion of a season, proving that seasons are in the hands of the airline. June, which was to have been the onset of the off-season for domestic air travel, has recorded the best load factors, making it a lucrative month, and carrying fuller airplanes (on domestic) than IndiGo in the June of Q1 FY13.

The advent of Ancillaries

Part of SpiceJet’s rebranding was the commercial interest involved with the introduction of preferred seats (where passengers may pay higher for ‘Max’ seats which are the first few and emergency exit seats which either offer better legroom or promise faster boarding and deplaning), and the hot meals with TAJ SATS and CCD. The ancillaries from these introductions are pronounced in June 2014, as the hot meals were introduced towards the end of May of 2014. With these introductions, and the higher number of passengers flown, SpiceJet could have realized higher in-flight ancillary revenue in Q1 FY14 compared to Q1 FY13.

Financial Summary

P&L statementFor the Q1 of FY13, SpiceJet reported a profit of INR 50 Crores. One of the largest disproportionate expenses for the airline, in FY13, was maintenance: INR 993Cr, most of which was contributed to in H1 FY13. Over quarters, the maintenance cost averages to INR 250Cr. In Q1 FY13, the maintenance cost was INR 200 Cr. If the maintenance costs prevail, due to activities associated with aircraft being configured to lessor-return conditions, then compared to Q1 FY13, the maintenance cost overrun is INR 50Cr.

Although six Boeing 737s were withdrawn from operations, there were three extra 737s on the books, compared to Q1 FY13, which together add about INR 12Cr in lease over the three months, over Q1 FY13.

Compared to Q1 FY13, fuel prices in Q1 FY14 have risen by an average 10%, while ASKs have fallen by about 7%, resulting in a net fuel price increase of INR 17Cr.

Overall, flights in Q1 FY14 have fallen to 95% of that in Q1 FY13, resulting in airport charges reducing by about INR 5 Cr.

Flight crew salary hikes were not effected in Q1 FY14.

Cargo carried has gone up by 10% in Q1 FY14, contributing to INR 4 Cr of revenues over and above that in Q1 FY3.

Passengers in Q1 FY14 have dipped by 23,400 when compared to Q1 FY13. Assuming these passengers could have been regular fare paying passengers, the airline may have lost INR 11Cr. In addition, due to the promo fares, the airline may have lost INR 37Cr in the form of average yield reduction.

The lesser flights but higher passengers and cargo per flight translate to an average 500kg increase in payload, per flight, which introduces an average 0.65% fuel burn penalty, which translates to INR 5 Cr.

However, the airline may have shored up to around INR 150Cr from the sales in Q1 for services in Q2, and the market stimulation drive. With this, the airline may report a two digit profit (though we’d love to see three), and a single digit profit or a very modest and negligible loss, at worst. It must be noted that proceeds due to ancillaries haven’t been considered, which will increase profits. These profit/loss projects are very approximate, conservative, and willfully skip few other factors that influence cost, and may not hold true in case the airline paid off certain dues from previous quarters (if such rumors of unpaid dues are true)  in Q1 FY14, in which case the airline may slip into losses against the above projection.

If the company’s declared results are as analysed above, SpiceJet is on its way to a positive transformation. With all it’s heart.

Air Pegasus gets real, for real

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ATR72500Since 2011, Air Pegasus has been in the news. The coverage has damaged the airline’s reputation- the managing director talked of starting operations twice, and both timelines were missed with not a single aircraft in India that was to operate under the Pegasus brand.

The airline was granted its NOC late 2011, and since then renewed twice. Most, including the DGCA, haven’t taken Air Pegasus seriously. They’d written it off as another airline that will not take to the skies.

But all that has changed. The MD and CEO of the airline, Mr. Shyson Thomas, firmly believes its his last renewal of the NOC, for he is confident of getting his AOP in September. This time around though, it’s for real.

The airline will today (Monday, 4th August) sign on the dotted line a letter of intent with a lessor, who will supply the Bangalore based Air Pegasus Private Limited two eight-and-a-half year old ATR 72-500 aircraft. The airline has two expat pilots on its rolls, one of whom landed in Bangalore in the wee hours of Saturday morning from Athens, Greece, to attend an Aviation Security (AV-SEC) training. There are six Indian captains, and eleven first officers ready to fly the first two aircraft, and twenty all-female cabin crew ready to man it.

For the first time in the history of the yet-to-become airline, lessors have reportedly been sending the airline emails, rather than the other way around. There seems to be confidence from overseas, from the likes of people who have burnt their fingers leasing aircraft to Paramount and Kingfisher. It is too early to see pictures of an ATR in the airline’s paint scheme, but once the signatures are done, two ex-Kingfisher/Deccan aircraft will be ready to start another chapter in the history of Indian aviation: an all ATR, pure-regional airline based out of Bangalore, to cater specifically to the south- a region attractive for it includes three Tier I cities and many promising, and economically important Tier II cities.

Shyson Thomas speaks exclusively to The Flying Engineer, in his most detailed interview till date. With 102 questions, and answers, learn about the airline, and the aircraft-from his viewpoint, and about the man at the controls in this Interlysis with Shyson Thomas – Air Pegasus, Unplugged. CLICK HERE to dive into the depths of the airline.

AirAsia India flies North & opens virgin routes effective September

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VT_ATF_Approach_BIAL_11th_June_2014

AirAsia India announced its plans to operate to the north, connecting Bangalore with Chandigarh and Jaipur effective September 5th, 2014. The new routes, and an additional frequency on the Goa-Bangalore vv sector will be supported with a fleet of two aircraft.

The second aircraft for AirAsia India is expected to be delivered in the month of August. The plan to fly to the north with the arrival of the second aircraft is in line with Mittu Chandilya’s-CEO AirAsia India-statements on June 12th when AirAsia India started its commercial operations.

Playing on Costa’s Turf

Air Costa, the Vijayawada based regional airline poised to ‘soon’ fly pan India, plays the game of Tier I – Tier II / Tier III connectivity. The airline does not yet fly intra Tier II or Tier III city routes, and does not yet serve Tier III cities.

AirAsia India plays the Air Costa game: The only Tier I city it flies to, out of Bangalore, is Chennai. The other cities on its schedule effective September 5th – Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kochi, Goa- are all Tier II.

With just its second aircraft, AirAsia India will start flying to the north, and tap a fairly neglected route – Bangalore-Jaipur, and open a virgin route- Bangalore-Chandigarh. Bangalore-Chandigarh was on the cards of Air Costa, but the startup regional airline has had to grapple with too many domestic issues to lend it the speed to expand. The only route flown by Air Costa, not served by others, is the Hyderabad-Jaipur non-stop.

But then Air Costa does something that AirAsia doesn’t believe in: it flies three way routes: one variant of a point-to-point network strategy. For example, Air Costa flies Bangalore-Jaipur-Hyderabad: not an immediate return. According to Mittu, “point-to-point means you start from one place, you go to one, and you come back and park the plane. We don’t do three way exotic routes and none of that.”

 AirAsia is appearing less of a threat to IndiGo and more to Air Costa, though the two new players have two different aircraft, which makes a direct competition and comparison impossible.

If AirAsia India has well researched its potential Bangalore-Chandigarh traffic, then the airline will stand to reap the benefits of route monopoly. If however the airline doesn’t really fetch the traffic it needs, it would have stimulated the market, allowing Air Costa to then jump in and reap the benefits with a smaller airplane that will cater to a lower demand.

But if the market proves to be really strong, it will attract IndiGo and Air Costa on this virgin route.

On the Jaipur sector, the only other airlines to offer a direct service are Air Costa and Indigo. AirAsia’s departure to Jaipur is timed 35 minutes before Air Costa’s, and leaves Jaipur at 12:45hrs to return to Banaglore. Air Costa however doesn’t fly the return, allowing AirAsia India to tap a noon slot. Air Costa and IndiGo fly Jaipur-Bangalore only in the evening and later evening, respectively.

In essence, AirAsia India has placed itself between Indigo and Air Costa, being a true competitor to neither airline, while easily competing in some form and fashion with either airline on a per route basis.

Not SpiceJet’s cup of ‘tea, coffee, or me’

SpiceJet doesn’t offer any flights from Bangalore to Jaipur, or the return. The only possible all-SpiceJet route, not offered by the airline, is a two stop hop via Hyderabad and Delhi, which is least attractive. This is the fallout of poor frequency, even on the mainlines, effectively negating the network spread achieved by the airline’s dual fleet of Q400s and 737NGs.

On the Chandigarh front, SpiceJet’s least-total duration connection via Delhi makes the journey 5:10hr long, just 15 minutes longer than IndiGo’s connection via Delhi. The direct flight offered by AirAsia is just 2:55hr long.

Increased aircraft Utilization over longer sectors.

aai_pattern_2

AirAsia India, with its single aircraft, will fly a pattern effective 14th August 2014 that will see 10 flights of an average block time of 1 hour each pick up a total of 10:15hours over 10 flights, with a utilisation efficiency of 69%. The utilisation can touch 12:35 hrs if the airline flies two 1:10hr sectors in the 3:50hr period the aircarft stay’s on ground at Bangalore, as analyzed in this piece.

A second pattern effective September 5th 2014, when the second aircraft joins the fleet, will comprise of six flights, each with an average flight time of 2:14hrs, resulting in an aircraft utilization of 13:25hrs, with a utilization efficiency of 85%. The higher efficiency is due to the longer flights of Bangalore-Jaipur and return, and Bangalore-Chandigarh and return.

The airline hopes to, and will be able to, manage a 25 minute turnaround at Jaipur and Chandigarh. However, the 25 minutes planned at Bangalore in the first pattern seems surprising, as analyzed previously.

Based on the pattern timings, the second aircraft is likely to arrive towards end August. The airline plans to receive one airplane a month thereafter.

Apparently, Mittu said during yesterday’s Chennai press conference that the airline will induct as many airplanes as required to serve as many routes as possible till there are no route combinations left to fly.

Strong local and P2P focus

If anyone should be happy, it must be Subramanian Swamy. AirAsia’s network will open up routes that will benefit the economy, while as of today, not truly stepping on the toes of another airline. Today, there seems to be no efforts taken by AirAsia India to plan its network so as to feed traffic into its sister subsidiaries of AirAisa Malaysia or Thai AirAsia.

With routes that fly direct from one region to another, AirAsia India also seems to have a ‘regional’ focus, and by diverting traffic this way, can help de-congest airports like Delhi, which has to handle a significant number of transit passengers today.

With the two patterns, AirAsia India will add the capacity to cater to 1 million passengers, annually. As more airplanes come in, and the network and frequency grow, this number will only rise. With an average load factor across all flights today estimated at a realistic 80-85%, the airline will contribute to 800,000-850,000 passenger movements at Bangalore, annually, based on September’s patterns. This may serve to develop Bangalore as a prominent, and possibly a preferred hub and gateway in/to South India.

AirAsia India: Aircraft utilisation crosses 10 hours with double daily Kochi, Hyderabad next?

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ATF_parked_KIA

  • Double daily to Kochi: Aircraft utilisation crosses 10 hours per day (Aug 14th onward).
  • Hyderabad seems like the next logical destination.
  • Airline touches 25 minute turn around, timing though is baffling.

VTATF revised utilisationAirAsia India announced the double daily to Kochi today with minimal publicity. The double daily is effective August 14th onward, and that is when the airline’s single aircraft, an A320 registered VT-ATF, will cross 10:00hrs of daily aircraft utilisation. When that happens, the average turnaround time will settle at 30 minutes, and the average block time of each flight will hover around 1 hour.

The airline is yet to utilise the aircraft in the period between 11:20hrs and 15:10hrs: when the aircraft is on ground for almost 4 hours. Disregarding this time on ground, the aircraft’s present utilisation efficiency (total block hours against total time the airplane is used for operations) touches 69%. This number will increase if the aircraft is used on longer sectors, when the airplane spends more time in air.

If the other flights in this pattern are to remain, then the aircraft can operate two 1:10hr block hour sectors in that near 4 hour period on ground.

Map_AAI_1_10hrsA 1:10hr block flight (see the green range circle in the adjacent map) is possible if the airline flies to one of the following cities: Vijayawada, Hyderabad, Belgaum or Hubli. Hubli’s airport runway is 5,500ft long, and can just meet the runway requirements for the A320. Alternately, the airline can fly sub-1:10 sectors, which include Madurai, Coimbatore, and Mangalore.

Another interesting point is the timings of AirAsia India’s flights. For its Tier II destinations, AirAsia India’s flights do not compete with the competition. For example, between 12:30 and 13:00, there are three departures to Goa, operated by Indigo, SpiceJet, and Jet Airways, what may be considered the “peak” time for departures to the holiday destination Goa from Bangalore. AirAsia India however fills a wide gap, as seen in the graph for the period wise departures to Goa. As for Kochi, the airline operates flights at times that are not served by other airlines, ensuring a comfortable day return for business passengers to Kochi.

AAI Departures out of Bangalore to Souther DESTWhen it comes to the only Tier I city it serves out of Bangalore- Chennai-AirAsia India’s flights do not really fill a gap, but are timed to somewhat coincide with the “peak” timings-beating the early morning IndiGo flight by 20 minutes (and moved in the graph to the 5-6 slot for purposes of clarity although the departure is at 6:05hrs) and positioning itself well to offer another departure just before other airlines offer a string of departures in every time period between 19:00 and 23:00hrs.

Loads, however, on the early morning Bangalore-Chennai vv run aren’t as great as the Goa loads, hovering at 65-70% only.

It will only be prudent for an airline to now tap another relatively denser route. AirAsia India’s aircraft is on ground between 11:20hrs and 15:10hrs. With 30 minute turnarounds, the airline can operate a 11:50 departure to a destination to which the block time is 1:10, and operate the return at 13:30 from that destination.

Of the four cities that are a block hour 1:10hrs away, Hyderabad seems lucrative as it is a Tier I route. Interestingly, a departure at 11:50 will coincide with the period which appears to be favourable for departures to Hyderabad. Between 10:00hrs and 13:00hrs, there are five departures to Hyderabad from Bangalore. No other period is as dense.

With this analysis, Hyderabad appears to be a good destination to fly to. Vijayawada, Hubli, and Belgaum may not have the loads for economically viable 180 seat airplane operations; such destinations are presently serviced by SpiceJet’s 78 seat Bombardier Q400s and AirCosta’s 67 seat Embraer E170.

If Hyderabad ‘happens’, the airline’s sole aircraft’s utilisation will touch 12:35hrs: a very impressive figure considering Air Costa plans a maximum of 11:25hrs utilisation on its E170s, with 1 hour sectors (just like AirAsia’s sectors today) even with a 20 minute turn around. AirAsia manages this by starting operations one hour earlier and stopping two-and-a-half hours after Air Costa’s.

Interesting Turnaround targets: Touching the holy 25 minute

AAI_KIA_Traffic_MovementThe pattern for their single aircraft reveal some interesting data. At Cochin and Bangalore, the airline targets a 25-minute turnaround at Bangalore and Cochin between the Chennai and Cochin flights, and the Bangalore and Cochin flights. These are the only two turnarounds that are in line with AirAsia Group’s target of 25 minutes for domestic flights. Interestingly, the 25 minute turnaround at Bangalore is planned between 8:30AM IST – 8:55AM IST: the peak period for aircraft movements at the airport, when chances for delays due to congestion are higher (look at the Bangalore airport traffic density in the graph on the right).

To facilitate a faster turnaround, AirAsia uses the aerobridges between flights: passengers are encouraged to deplane from the front (aerobridge) and the rear (stairs and then apron busses), while boarding is completed via the front entry only.

To be able to consistently meet a very short turnaround target of 25 minutes, AirAsia must resort to a method of queuing passengers in the order of last seat first in, to allow the cabin to settle faster. The practicality of such an implementation is another matter of discussion.

IndiGo may lease airplanes on short term from Tiger Airways

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It has been learnt that IndiGo may be flying TigerAir’s Airbus A320 aircraft on a ‘short term lease’.

The move gains prominence in the light of four developments: IndiGo’s original 100 airplane order will be completed in the December of 2014, new competition from TATA-SIA and AirAsia India has made IndiGo upward revise its expansion plans, IndiGo has now extended the lease of its airplanes to 10 years from the previously financially viable six years, and Tigerair Mandala ceased operations on 1st July 2014.

IndiGo had ordered 100 Airbus A320 aircraft in the June of 2005. With the 100 airplane order completing in the December of 2014, the 180 airplane order placed in June 2011 kicks in, which comprises 150 A320 new engine option (NEO) and 30 A320 classic engine option (CEO).

With IndiGo inducting 19 A320s in 2012 and 17 A320s in 2013, the 30 aircraft which are part of the new order may be inducted into the fleet by the third quarter of the calendar year 2016, perfectly timed to coincide with the A320 NEOs for the airline. Initial production rate of the A320NEOs will be low as it will share the line with the existing A320s. The A320NEO’s expected entry into service (EIS) is early 2016.

While this was the plan for IndiGo, it seems like the competition has messed them up. To retain market share and maintain an edge, the airline is possibly looking to scale up operations, considering the new routes that are being added, and the fact that the airline is trying to keep its airplanes in its fleet longer, through a lease extension.

To support its expansion plans, IndiGo has been inducting at least one aircraft every month, with as many as four in a month. However (and surprisingly), for unclear reasons, the airline has not inducted any aircraft in the months of May and June. VT-IAP, the yet to be delivered A320, may likely be inducted in August. This will take the fleet size to 79 aircraft, and will be the 95th aircraft from the 100 airplane order., leaving five airplanes to be delivered across the five months August-December.

With the Delhi based TATA-SIA expecting to start operations in September, and the Bangalore based AirAsia India expecting to receive its second and third aircraft late July or early August, and the airline mulling flying to the north soon, IndiGo may be looking to expand to stay ahead, by leveraging the economies of scale.

On July 1st, 2014, Indonesia’s Tigerair Mandala ceased operations. This is the second time ‘Mandala‘ as an airline has ceased operations, and this time it was after Citilink and AirAsia refused to acquire the airline. This has placed nine Airbus A320 aircraft from the airline into storage at Kuala Lumpur, which means nine A320s are available for grabs. The Flying Engineer believes that some of these A320s may make their way to IndiGo under a ‘short term lease’.

Inducting Tigerair Mandala’s A320s into the fleet won’t be an engineering hassle for the airline as these aircraft are also powered by the IAEV2527-A5 engines: the same ones that power the A320s at IndiGo. The cabins are laid out in a dense economy configuration of 180 seats, similar to IndiGo’s. None of the aircraft have the fuel saving ‘sharklets‘.

While this may seem like IndiGo’s knee-jerk reaction to opportunities and market dynamics and competition, it must also be noted that such measures are adding a degree of ‘stickiness’ to IndiGo’s otherwise well planned operations. The airline’s older aircraft, especially some above the age of six years, are starting to appear dirty on the outside-the fuselages of those airplanes are no longer fully white. IndiGo had in the past taken care to ensure its airplanes were clean.

If the Tigerair lease materialises, then it will be the first time in IndiGo’s history that the airline will operate aircraft previously used by another airline, and for the first time will fly airplanes that were previously used.

Thanks to Oscar Victor.

TATA-SIA Airline’s first A320 gets ready

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TATA-SIA’s A320-232SL (SL=sharklets), was spotted flying for the first time at Toulouse, France yesterday. The aircraft was flown with a test registration F-WWDT, and the airframe is serial number 6223.

The aircraft is to be registered as VT-TTB. The aircraft will next fly to Hamburg where it will have its cabin fitted in accordance with TATA-SIA’s preferences.

The aircraft is expected in Delhi, India by August 15th, but no later than August 20th.

The airline received its no objection certificate (NOC) from the ministry on April 2nd 2014, and applied for an air operator permit (AOP) on 22nd April 2014. On 9th July 2014, the DGCA decided to consider the AOP application of TATA-SIA, after inviting and reviewing objections and suggestions from the public.

Judging by the pace of developments and clearances at the airline, the AOP is expected by the first half of September. Considering that the Delhi High Court today adjourned the hearing of petitions filed by the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) and Subramanian Swamy against TATA-SIA and AirAsia India to September 12th, TATA-SIA may secure its AOP before the court hearing.

Once the AOP is secured, the airline may open for sales in September, and begin operations by end September / early October, subject to timely clearance of flight schedules by the DGCA.

Choice of Power.

Although TATAs have a stake in both TATA-SIA and AirAsia India, the engine chosen by the full service airline is the IAE V2527-A5, unlike the CFM56-5B6 flown by AirAsia. This particular IAE engine is similar to what IndiGo uses on its Airbus A320 aircraft, and has a higher thrust but lower bypass ratio when compared to the CFM56-5B6. As a result, the IAE engines are noisier.

Parameter

CFM56-5B6 IAE V2527-A5

Take off Thrust

104.5kN 110.3kN
Bypass Ratio 5.9:1 4.8:1
Noise* Lower Baseline

*Based on FAA data. Quantified comparison omitted here as it’s too exhaustive.

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IAE V2527-A5 on an IndiGo A320-232SL

Pratt and Whitney holds majority stake in the IAE venture, which was originally formed between Pratt and Whitney, Rolls Royce, MTU Aero Engines and Japanese Aero Engine Corp now has Pratt and Whitney as the major stakeholder when the United Technologies Corporation engine unit bought out Rolls Royce’s stake in October 2011.

TATA-SIA’s choice of engine was very natural. Singapore Airlines flies Boeing 777s, A380s, and A330s-all powered by Rolls Royce Engines. Singapore Airlines’ subsidiary-Silk Air-flies A320 and A319 aircraft fitted with IAE engines. Tigerair, in which Singapore Airlines has a stake, flies A320s and A319s with IAE engines.

AirAsia’s fleet mostly comprises of the A320-216 (CFM56-5B6 powered).

According to Amit Singh, Director Flight Operations at AirAsia India, the low thrust of the 5B6 translates to maintenance savings. Worldwide, CFM engines have a reputation for reliability and robustness, reportedly better than IAE’s. The CFMs are reported to offer better economics on the A320 and A319.

Although CFM has more than 55% of the classic engine market that powers the A320 aircraft, it has a lower market share in Asia Pacific. In India, presently, 93 Airbus A320 family aircraft are powered by IAE Engines, while 66 are powered by CFM engines. Of the 93 IAE powered A320 aircraft, 78 comprise IndiGo’s fleet.

Edit: Thrust ratings changed to reflect take off thrust as published by EASA.

Tony flies AirAsia India, developments get interesting.

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04_TonyAirAsia India , which opened for sales on May 30th, sold out the entire seats on the first flight in nine minutes, according to the Indian venture’s chief executive officer Mrithyunjaya Chandilya better known as Mittu, which according to him, “must be a record somewhere”.

Loads on the airline have been very encouraging. Reportedly, the Bangalore-Goa flights fly almost full, while the Bangalore-Chennai flights fly with about 80% load factor (occupancy), bringing the average to around 90% plus. The CEO is smiling, albeit with a hint of nervousness, and the big boss: AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes is very optimistic about India.

Underneath the show, excitement, and optimism, are the currents of cautiousness, and disagreement within the airline. The head of investor relations at AirAsia did not seem to mince words when talking about the airline’s break even: What Mittu had told the whole world: a break even in four months, seems to be far fetched for the head of investor relations who now says it’s not before eight months.

AirAsia India is probably the most dynamic airline in the country, today. Which is very good (and much needed), and at the same time paints a picture of an airline that wasn’t fully prepared for India. In parallel, the airline is putting people first, promising to make a cabin crew a line pilot. This, and a lot more, including Tony’s recipe for success, and how it seems to really be his show, which you can read when you click here.

AirAsia India all set to make its, and Tony’s presence felt at Bangalore

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Tony, Ratan Tata, Ramadorai, Venkatraman, Mittu, and others from AirAsia celebrating the board’s gathering at ITC Windsor, Bangalore.

Bangalore, the supposed aviation capital of India, and rumoured to eventually become AirAsia’s operational base, will witness something like never before, tomorrow.

The airline, known for its loud and off-beat branding, will mobilize a convoy that will run between Hotel ITC Windsor, and Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport. The 32km drive will see loads of Royal Enfield bullet motorcycles, and an open roof bus which will have Tony (Group CEO, AirAsia), Mittu (CEO, AirAsia India), and few cabin crew waving out to the crowd.

Tony will fly his first ever AirAsia India flight tomorrow, on board i51320 from Bangalore to Goa, scheduled to depart at 15:10 local (IST, GMT + 05:30). Tony Fernandes will fly for the first time to Goa; his parents’ roots trace back to the tourist city.

Tomorrow’s branding will be one of a kind, and will give AirAsia India significant publicity. Ratan Tata, who is at Bangalore meeting AirAsia India employees, may stay away from tomorrow’s stunts, as it is culturally a stark contrast to the ways of the attention shy guy.

Welcome different branding, India. Now everyone can see.

As loads factors go up in May, so do hopes at SpiceJet. Q1 Loss imminent.

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LFSpiceJet’s load factor in the May of 2014 has touched 81.4%, its highest in two years since the May of 2012, and is the first month in this calendar year to beat the load factors witnessed by the airline last year. It beats the previous year’s load factors for the same month, by 0.5%.

While this is reassuring news, it must be noted that since 2010, May has been the month when SpiceJet witnesses its highest load factors. May and June are peak months for air travel, but it is only the second best period for IndiGo, which usually sees its best load factors in the month of December.

Statistically, SpiceJet’s load factors slip after May. Loads factors for the month of July are expected to be lower, but it is not known if they are lower than the previous year’s.

Effects of SpiceJet’s most significant market stimulation drive, the Re 1 fare sale which was held for the first three days of April, for travel between 01-July-2014 to 28-March- 2015, will be seen this month. Due to the sale, load factors are expected to go up, and according to the airline’s Chief Commercial Officer Kaneswaran Avili, the stimulation has yielded positive results in terms of higher non-promo fare bookings as well.

With these multiple promotional sales, any higher bookings are a mix of promo fares and regular fares. If the market has been sufficiently stimulated, which will reflect in higher load factors, then the airline will generate additional revenue. But if even after the stimulation, if the load factors rise only slightly, or not at all, it may not generate the airline any additional revenue. If load factors drop, which is highly unlikely, it is the death bell for the airline.

For example, SpiceJet’s Super Holi sale in March for travel between 14th April and 30th June 2014, and the Super Summer Sale in February for travel between April 1 and June 30, 2014, did not seem to have had an overall positive impact on the load factors for the months of April and May. Since the load factors were lower than the corresponding period in the previous year, it only meant that lesser people filled up the aircraft on average, and among that lesser set of passengers, even lesser actually paid a regular fare.

As shown in The Flying Engineer’s analysis of SpiceJet, there is a strong correlation between load factors and operational profits. Considering that (look at the graph) the load factors in April and May have resulted in an average load factor that is 0.6% lower than last year’s load factors for the same months, and that some of that passenger set bought sale/promotional fares and not regular fares, and that the factors in June are expected to dip (based on statistical trends), it may be likely that for the Q1 for Financial Year 2014, SpiceJet may report a loss.

But with the 0.5% in load factors in May, over last year’s, mild hopes are pinned on the second quarter of FY2104, which started yesterday. We do wish the airline all the very best, and hope to see it turnaround fast and strong, before the might of aggressively expanding TATA-SIA and AirAsia India, and the increasing capacity deployed by IndiGo and GoAir possibly choke the airline.

SpiceJet’s 1,003 Crore Loss: How, why, and…avoidable?

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The Flying Engineer looks into some of the areas where SpiceJet’s losses were linked to its planning and performance, mostly to do with operations. The long analysis identifies trends, and looks at areas where the airline could have either saved money, or made money.

Although the airline mentioned that 70% of the airline’s costs are affected by the dollar, this analysis shows how that the dollar can take only part blame for the loss. The real story goes beyond the dependance on the dollar, to a larger dependance on the airline, and how practices, brand, image, network, services, operations, planning, and people are responsible for the mess that SpiceJet found itself in.

The piece also captures most of what SpiceJet has been doing: transforming on the inside and the outside. With string and diligent efforts by the team led by Sanjiv Kapoor, FY2014-15 may witness SpiceJet performing better. However, the new entrants: AirAsia India and TATA-SIA, between which two SpiceJet has positioned itself, will place a lot of stress on the airline, especially at the same time as its turnaround process. Will it survive? Could it have been profitable? How does it measure against its competition? This and more, when you CLICK HERE.

The airline and its captain: AirAsia India and Mrithyunjaya Chandilya

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Interlysis02The Flying Engineer does an interview and an analysis – or an Interlysis with Mrithyunjaya Chandilya, CEO of the newest airline in India: AirAsia India. Better known as Mittu, he’s stands out from the other heads of an airline: in his appearance, his fondness of the limelight, and his admirable warrior spirit. He talks to The Flying Engineer on AirAsia India and a variety of topics in the airline: its expansion plans, staff, culture, targets, and more, including how he came to figure in the continuing story that everyone is watching closely.

The Flying Engineer also analyses certain things about the airline, trying to make sense out of certain targets and decisions. We do hope you enjoy this piece. Click here to read a lot about the new airline and the new kid on the block.

Air Asia India: Getting Real

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AirAsia India (AAI) took to the skies yesterday, on its first revenue flight, and marks a new chapter in Indian air transport history. The inaugural flight, i5 1320, flew from Bangalore to Goa, with almost all seats filled with excited passengers, guests, and staff.

To the paying customer, who after all is the target of every airline, four things are important, one of which is the in-flight experience, which includes aircraft cleanliness, comfort, in-flight service, and food & beverage options. AirAsia India has got it right from day one; being part of the AirAsia Group really does make all the difference.

Today, AirAsia India is a small player, but with a huge backing. It enjoys the economies of scale, and is set to take on the Indian market by storm.

In this piece, we look into what could make AAI appeal to the passenger, and why it may emerge as the preferred airline.

CLICK HERE to read all about an ingredient to the airline’s success.

Autoflight now available: PAT

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LOGO_1280Project Airbus Tech (PAT) is pleased to announce that chapter ATA 22 / autoflight is now available! Covering this chapter – close to 150 questions, was a huge task, but A320 rated and soon to be released line pilot Sushank Gupta has done a great job answering each and every question. “This one was a monster chapter, very extensive and really in-depth. Phew !!”.

CLICK HERE for Autoflight.

Embodying the truest spirit of aerospace engineering: Hindustan University.

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Hindustan University offers what no-one else in India can, today: a course in aeronautical and aerospace engineering with a level of exposure that is unmatched. Unlike other universities in India, and like universities of repute overseas, the Hindustan Group has an active and reputed flight school (Orient Flight School), an aviation college offering a Diploma in Aircraft Maintenance Engineering (HIET), and a degree in aeronautical and aerospace engineering at Hindustan University. This allows the university to cross-feed knowledge and resources across its group, to the benefit of its students.

What sets the university apart? Many things: studying at the university is like living in an airplane hangar: complete aircraft, aircraft parts, and systems are seen everywhere. The university also gives its students time on a flight simulator, and real time on a real airplane at their flight school. The university also encourages deserving students by sending them overseas for events of high exposure value: airshows. It also has a TIFAC core, and more, detailed in an article about the university.

In short, those who study at Hindustan University are well rounded. The proof of the pudding is in the eating: The Flying Engineer got to randomly interview two students on their awareness about an aircraft and its systems. The honest result? They were more aware about aircraft parts and systems than aero students from IIT-Kharagpur and IIT-Chennai whom The Flying Engineer had interacted with.

The flip side of the college: its research focus is very low, and which the university acknowledges, but is apparently working towards resolving. But research at the undergraduate level isn’t as important as laying strong foundations. Strong foundations give a student a bright future with multiple options; weak foundations from even a higly reputed university can at most get a student a job.

Learn more, and why, about HITS – Hindustan University – a place with the right ingredients for a degree in aerospace and aeronautical engineering, by CLICKING HERE.

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A new battle dawns: SpiceJet launches pre-emptive strike on the market

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Goa is the latest addition to AirAsia's destinations.

Goa is the latest addition to AirAsia’s destinations.

AirAsia Group CEO Tony’s tweet, last afternoon, “Very very proud to announce AirAsia India open for sale tomorrow. Wow. First flight June 12th. Ser you all In India on the 12th“, was the group’s Indian startup’s battle cry. The first sectors are expected to be Bangalore-Goa, and Bangalore-Chennai.

All that AirAsia India’s voice, Mittu Chandilya, has been claiming till date, will be put to test: the airfares, claimed to be 30% lower than regular airfares of other airlines; the turnaround time: an optimistic 20 minutes, and more.

Almost five hours later, the battle cry was responded to, by SpiceJet. It announced a ‘Special Promotional fare’ coinciding with AirAsia’s first commercial flight – June 12th- on two popular routes in South India by offering tickets as low as Rs 1,499, excluding statutory taxes. Including taxes, this amounts to INR 2,058. This all inclusive fare is 60% lower than that offered by other carriers for Bangalore-Goa flights on 12th June.

Coinciding with the formal announcement, Sanjiv Kapoor, COO of SpiceJet tweeted, “How does Rs 1499/- ow for MAA-BLR vv or BLR-GOA vv starting June 12 sound? That’s the lowest allowed by DGCA. Should we? ;)

This is SpiceJet’s pre-emptive strike on the market, hours before AirAsia India opens up its portals for booking on these sectors.

Kaneswaran Avili, SpiceJet’s Chief Commercial Officer, and former director-business development at AirAsia, is making SpiceJet go the way of AirAsia in stimulating the market and shoring up revenues through carefully planned and limited promotional airfares. With Kaneswaran on board, AirAsia will be competing with an airline that has one of its original own, but till lacks the economies of scale, and operational streamlining that AirAsia India will enjoy by being a part of the AirAsia group.

Edit: But AirAsia India shocked the population with INR 990 fares from Bangalore – Goa. This has miffed SpiceJet, which was at the receiving end of DGCA’s flak for selling INR 1/- fares (with tax amounting to around INR 450 for Bangalore – Goa), and was told to not sell below INR 1,499. Many see this as unfairness meted out to an Indian airline.

AirAsia India is officially launching on May 30th: exactly two years after the now defunct AirAsia Japan launched (opened for sale of tickets) in 2012.

The sale of tickets is expected to commence later today at around 23:00hrs (11pm).

Summer Student Pilot License Program

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OFS08Orient Flight School, one of India’s oldest private flying schools offers a beginners course in flying, this summer. Students joining this course will be eligible to obtain a Student Pilot License (SPL), on the completion of this five week long course. This summer SPL program is open to students, who are 16 years of age and have completed their 10th standard exams.

On joining this program students will be offered training in basic flying subjects concerning flying, such as, the theory of flight, air regulations, aviation weather, air navigation, aero-engines, air frames and avionics. In addition, students get five hours of virtual flying on a flight simulator.

This program covers the first capsule of the full fledged pilot training course and prepares the candidate for an SPL. The key take away is that a SPL has a validity of 5 years and is obtained during the summer holidays, without affecting the academic focus of a student. This SPL may then be upgraded to a private pilot license (PPL) (which covers 50 hours of actual flying), during the class 11th and 12th vacations. By the time a candidate appears for his 12th (Senior Secondary School) Board exams, almost one third of the commercial pilot license (CPL) course would be completed.

The advantage of this program is that students get focused to a flying career, while in school itself. The advantages, as explained by the Deputy Director, OFS, Air Cmde (retd) Govindraj, are two fold. Firstly, most students go flying after their 12th, which typically takes two years. However, with this program, a CPL will be obtained within one year of passing class 12, thereby allowing the student to enroll in a full time, focused degree course immediately thereafter, allowing them to have a flying license and a useful degree at a young age. Secondly, it allows students to taste the world of professional flying early, and if not to his or her liking, aids in an early decision on pursuing career options either in or outside this field, without having to introduce a gap between senior secondary high school and a degree course.

To the flight school, such an innovative program helps keep the school active, drawing students to flying through greater awareness. Since financial entry barriers into this summer SPL program are very low, it allows a wider audience to taste the world of aviation, while allowing the serious to plan their financial requirements to meet the expenditure of a CPL Course.

Batch 01 (May) has already commenced, and admission to batches in June and July are open. You may read more about OFS by clicking here.

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AirAsia India receives its Air Operator Permit; Salaries to increase

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AirAsia India CEO Mittu posing with the AOP

AirAsia India CEO Mittu holding the AOP

Air Asia India receives its AOP at 6:15pm IST. Landmark in Indian Aviation. Article also counters certain incorrect and misleading statements in Business Standard.

AirAsia India received its Air Operator Permit (AOP) today, at 18:15hrs IST. The Chief Executive of the airline, Mittu Chandilya, was at Delhi to receive the AOP.

Tweeted Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO, at 18:37 IST, “History has been made today in Aviation. Everything has been hard for Airasia but we never give up. Today Airasia India has got APPROVAL.”(sic) That was followed by, “What a battle that was. proud day for me and all airasia all stars”(sic)

This development follows a tweet from AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, on May 5th: “I think huge week for Airasia. I feel that Airasia India will be approved very soon.” (sic).

AirAsia India concluded its proving flights-the last stage in the award of an AOP-on May 02, 2014. The two day-long proving flights saw the airline fly non-revenue passengers, which included airline staff and inspecting DGCA officers, to Kochi, Bangalore, and Kolkatta, from Chennai, to satisfy a March 2014 revision by the DGCA that requires an AOP applicant to fly a minimum of 5 sectors and 10 hours.

Revised Crew Remuneration

Along with this imminent AOP award today, the airline plans to upward-revise the salaries of its staff. Captains at AirAsia India reportedly are paid INR 1,60,000 (Indian Rupee One lakh Sixty Thousand) less than what IndiGo offers, per month, which results in an annual difference of INR 19,20,000. (Indian Rupee Nineteen Lakh Twenty thousand). This difference in pay was justified with the phase of the airline: non-operational.

The exact increment is unknown, but is believed to be competitive with prevailing market rates. Effective December 2013, IndiGo hiked the salaries of its pilots. Captains received a pay hike of around 15%, while that of cabin crew close to doubled. This salary increment checked the outflow of pilots from the airline.

Few pilots, who had joined AirAsia India early, left the airline to join IndiGo in light of the delays and uncertainties that surrounded the AOP, and the lower remuneration. This long drawn wait had partly demotivated some pilots, but has ensured that only the loyalists and believers are with the company when it starts operations.

However, few pilots left AirAsia India with hesitation, purely due to financial commitments.

Business Non-Standard

Business Standard came out with a piece “Meet AirAsia’s multitasking pilots; they do the cargo, too”, which unfortunately is misleading and partly incorrect.

All pilots can carry out checks known as transit checks, between flights. There is no necessity for an engineer to be involved with this check unless an issue requires rectification. Pilots are usually not authorized to rectify the issue. Pilots in every airline perform a “walk-around” to check the aircraft before departure, to look for signs of visible damage, such as worn tires, or from bird hits. If everything looks fine, no action is required. However, if something is out of place, an engineer’s opinion, involvement and clearance is required.

Such transit checks add an extra level of safety, and are practiced world over.

As far as Cabin crew are concerned, no cabin crew will be expected to perform the load and trim sheet. Errors in the load and trim are unforgivable, with fatal consequences. The cabin crew will perform only those duties which are required of them: cabin safety. Sources in the airline deny the cabin crew being involved with ticketing, and load & trim sheets. However, AirAsia Bhd cabin crew check the boarding passes at the apron entrance, while here, that check might be performed by cabin crew at the entrance to the aircraft, possibly at the foot of the air-stairs.

No pilot or cabin crew will handle the cargo, as suggested by the title of the BS story.

Not all flights have a turnaround time of 30-35 minutes. SpiceJet targets 20 minutes on some of its Q400 flights. Air Costa targets 20minutes on its Embraer E170s and 25 minutes on its E190s. The 25 minutes that AirAsia India targets will, however, be the best for a Boeing 737 or an A320 in India. 20 minutes, however, seems too optimistic.

Indian budget carriers achieve more than 12 block hours, contrasting what was reported. GoAir presently has the best aircraft utilisation in the country, with some of its airplanes flying patterns that start at 05:20AM and land at 12:50AM: a good 19hrs30min every day, picking up a total block time of 14hr15min daily. AirAsia India will not be the only airline to efficiently utilise its aircraft, though with a 20-25 minute turnaround, 16hrs block time is achievable, and may set a record in India.