Air Costa on Saturday the 19th, received its third Embraer E190 at Ammam, Jordan. The aircraft’s original lessor is GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS), and the aircraft previously flew for Saudi’s Flynas. The aircraft is one of two E190s earlier destined for another southern regional yet-to-start airline in India. Both airplanes, MSN 217 and MSN 233 have now been leased by Air Costa. Both aircraft are aged 7 years, and configured with 110 seats in a single class.
The first aircraft, which will be registered VT-LPB, is expected to tomorrow (21st December) fly into Delhi. Air Costa presently operates two E190s, MSN 593 and MSN 608, which are the E190 STD variant. The ones from Flynas are the E190 LR variant, which have a maximum take-off weight that is 2,500 kg heavier, allowing it up to 900 km (500 nautical miles) longer range when compared to the E190 STD, when flying with a load of 100 passengers.
The first of the two E190STD aircraft is expected to enter service on the 26th of December, 2015. On the 25th, Air Costa’s E190STD VT-LVR (MSN 608) will fly out to Jordan for scheduled heavy maintenance. The maintenance-bound aircraft will operate a special Chennai-Bengaluru flight LB712, before proceeding to Jordan. The active fleet at the airline will remain at 3 aircraft, until VT-LVR returns from maintenance, to take the fleet to 4 active aircraft. In November, the airline returned one of its 67 seat E170s (VT-LSR / MSN 278), which took the active fleet down to 3 aircraft. The other E170’s (VT-LNR / MSN 293) lease contract was extended by another nine months. The third E190 will therefore result in no net additions to Air Costa’s fleet size.
Activities such as return of aircraft, and scheduled and unscheduled maintenance of aircraft have led to numerous flight cancellations that threaten profitability in the peak season. Air Costa had last year reported a modest profit in the month of December. Fuel prices have fallen, since then.
Air Costa recently received a no objection from the Ministry towards securing a pan India air operator permit (AOP). According to news sources, Air Costa plans to induct the fourth E190 in February 2016, and commence pan India operations in April 2016. By then, the airline will have a fleet of 5 active aircraft. The airline completes 30 months of operations in March 2016.
Air Costa today flew only one aircraft, its Embraer E190 registered VT-LVR. VT-LNR, the lone Embraer E170 in Air Costa’s fleet operated its last commercial flight yesterday. Sistership VT-LSR was flown to Lisbon and returned to the lessor on 22nd November.
The E170 will be tomorrow (28th November) be flown to Jordan’s capital, Ammam, as its lease comes to an end.
Today, Air Costa operated only 8 flights: MAA-AMD-BLR-JAI-BLR-HYD-BLR-AMD-MAA, resulting in the cancellation of 28 flights.
The airline was supposed to have resumed operations of its other E190, VT-LBR, today (27th November). However, the aircraft is on its return from Jordan at the time of writing this. VT-LBR is flying into Bengaluru, from where it will operate a non-commercial ferry to Chennai early next morning, from where it will operate scheduled flights.
From tomorrow (28th November) onwards, Air Costa is expected to operate 16 flights a day, with 2 Embraer E190s. The MAA-HYD-VTZ-BLR-VTZ-HYD-MAA-JAI-MAA pattern, which was suspended since 16th November, will be resumed.
With the return of the E170, flights to Coimbatore, Tirupati and Vijayawada remain suspended till 4th December.
The airline’s website reflects flights on the VGA-BLR-CJB-HYD-VGA-HYD-TIR-HYD-CJB-BLR-VGA pattern available from 5th December. This pattern will be operated by the Embraer E190, suggesting that the E190s are expected by the 5th of December.
However, the 4th pattern for the E190s could not be determined.
The airline may perhaps not be able to secure its pan-India AOP until the 5th Embraer E190 is inducted into its fleet.
Air Costa’s flight cancellations in the month of November has been very high, and may have the highest cancellation rate among all airlines for the month.
Saudi Arabian airline Nas Air, which was later re-branded as Flynas, operated 6 110 seat Embraer E190LRs and 4 118 seat Embraer E195s, but ceased operations of the regional jet a while ago, as the airline transitioned to an Airbus A320 fleet. Of the six E190s, all leased from GECAS, two aircraft, with manufacturer serial number (MSN) 217 and 233 were reportedly to be leased to Bengaluru based FLYeasy, which is yet to obtain its Air Operator Permit (AOP).
Google Earth satellite imagery dated 15th September 2015 of the Jordan Aircraft Maintenance Company (JorAMCO) facility (see the highlighted portion in the image above) at the Queen Alia International Aiport at Jordan’s capital Ammam shows two Embraer E190 aircraft painted in what definitely appears as Flyeasy’s livery. Earlier satellite imagery dated 17th June 2015 shows one E190 in Nasair colors, and one E190 in Flyeasy’s colors parked at the JorAMCO facility.
The Flyeasy livery is very evident in the images, with the dark green winglets, dark green engines, and the dark green paint that follows the vertical stabiliser down to the bottom of the fuselage.
Air Costa’s 112 seat E190 registered VT-LBR, leased from GECAS, today flew into JorAMCO for scheduled maintenance.
Below are zoomed in images of the aircraft, and below that the embedded map. Please click on the image to view in full resolution.
Air Costa, which used to operate 32 daily flights to 9 destinations, will be operating 18 flights to 8 destinations starting today, 16th November, till 26th November, as the airline’s fleet temporarily reduces to just 2 aircraft – one 67 seat Embraer E170 and one 112 seat Embraer E190. No sale of flights on one of the patterns (MAA-HYD-VTZ-BLR-VTZ-HYD-MAA-JAI-MAA) was noticed on the airline’s website. This leads to VTZ not being temporarily served by Air Costa.
VT-LSR, one of the two Embraer E170s, has been pulled out of operations due to the planned return of the aircraft to its lessor. VT-LBR, one of the two Embraer E190s, operated a special Chennai-Bengaluru flight LB709 (the first 7xx flight number for the airline), which is a ferry flight turned commercial flight, before heading off for scheduled maintenance to Jordan via Muscat. This leaves only two airplanes – VT-LNR (E170) and VT-LVR (E190) in the active fleet in the short term.
In contrast to Air Costa cancelling flights, AirAsia India, which presently has one of its Airbus A320 airplanes (VT-BLR) at Hyderabad for scheduled maintenance (Since 1st November), has not allowed operations to be impacted. The airline, which recently received its 6th aircraft (VT-APJ), continues to fly 5 patterns with 5 active aircraft. VT-BLR is expected to return from maintenance today to allow VT-APJ to fly to Delhi to operate additional frequencies on existing routes, from tomorrow. (Edit: VT-BLR flew to Delhi late this morning, and will take on Delhi flights from tomorrow).
Air Costa, India’s first regional jet airline, turns 2 tomorrow (15th October 2015). The airline, which is the second airline in India after the now defunct Paramount Airways to operate the Embraer E170s, is terminating lease on the aircraft, making Air Costa perhaps the last Indian operator to employ the 70-80 seat regional jet.
The airline’s two Embraer E170s, registered VT-LSR & VT-LNR, were the first two airplanes for the airline, leased from Embraer’s ECC leasing. The aircraft earlier flew for Gulf Air, which had fitted the cabin with 67 seats : 7 business and 60 economy. The aircraft can pack in a maximum of 78 seats in a single class configuration.
The airline has cancelled up to 4 flights owing to one of the two E170s (VT-LSR) being returned in November. As of today, out of the 32 daily flights the airline used to operate to 9 destinations, it presently operates 25-26 flights. This is further expected to go down to around 15 – 16 flights per day in the next 10 days. When two new Embraer E190s are inducted, the airline will resume the flights previously operated by the E170s starting 1st Dec 2015.
Due to this, Air Costa does not seem to sell for, and operate certain E170 sectors between 25th Oct and 30th Nov (as per the website), till these are operated by the replacement aircraft, an Embraer E190, 1st Dec onwards. These sectors are captured in the table on the left. The airline has opened sales for these sectors for travel December 1st onward.
The airline does not seem to sell (indefinitely, as per the website) the E170 sectors operated by the other aircraft. These include:
Vijayawada <> Hyderabad
Vijayawada <> Chennai
Vijayawada <> Vishakapatnam
Chennai <> Hyderabad (Daily)
Frequencies on routes such as Bengaluru<>Vijayawada has halved.
Air Costa’s two other aircraft – Embraer E190s registered VT-LBR & VT-LVR, leased from GECAS, shall remain in the fleet, one of which would be going for a scheduled maintenance in mid-November. The Embraer E190 is a money maker for the airline, and Air Costa is using the asset to its strength. The 2 E170s will be replaced with 2 E190s in the next 3 months.
Based on studies by The Flying Engineer, small capacity regional jets of less than 100 seats have limited relevance in the Indian market, today. A great way to capture the market is to complement the Airbus A320 / Boeing 737s (180 seat airplanes) with an aircraft of nearly 50% – 60% capacity, making the Embraer E190 with 114 seats (maximum) an ideal airplane for routes with insufficient demand for a 180 seat airplane.
Air Costa will be able to connect Tier II and Tier III cities across the country with any Tier I city once its air operator permit (AOP) is converted from a scheduled southern regional airline to a scheduled (pan-India) airline operator permit. This change of AOP is expected to happen soon. However, the airline’s network will continue to be focused on the regional segment, but at a pan-India level.
With the airline demerging from other projects of the parent company, Air Costa is ready to attract external investments into the airline. It plans to induct 4 aircraft every year, from 2016. By 2018, the airline plans to have a minimum fleet of 12 aircraft and fly to 18 stations.
Air Costa presently operates to 9 destinations. A major network change is expected in light of the change in fleet. Bhubaneswar, Pune, Guwahati, Indore, Patna and Bhopal are expected to be added to the network when the fleet size touches 8.
There are few airlines in India which talk about their employees on social media. IndiGo has been featuring some of its staff and crew in its in-flight magazine, but these are more individual stories – either of struggle or achievement than a general feature. AirAsia India hasn’t officially talked of its staff – most photos of staff in a joyful mood are clicked and posted by its poster CEO Mittu. Air India only recently got active on social media. Go Air remains silent and Jet Airways uses certain employee photos to focus on matters other than the employees.
SpiceJet stands out. It became the only airline in India to sticker photos of its crew on the sides of its poster aircraft – VT-SZK. It did away with models, and featured employees for all promotional advertisements and banners. SpiceJet uses its employees as faces of the airline. Women’s day had to be special
Of all airlines in India, SpiceJet and Air Costa were the only ones to issue press releases with photos of their all women crew. While SpiceJet talked of 16 all women flights operated on Women’s day, Air Costa operated four flights with an all women crew. Air India operated four such flights, but spoke nothing of it on its social media sites. Air Costa issued a press release, but it was only the chief financial officer (CFO) Vivek who posted photos of the all women crew. The only airline that well coordinated the effort was SpiceJet.
Sanjiv Kapoor, the COO, was active on Twitter, and posted a photo of him posing with the all women crew who flew him from Goa to Delhi. The airline allowed all its fans and followers on Twitter to ask four of its women crew – a captain, a first officer, a cabin crew in charge, and a cabin crew, questions about pretty much anything. It also posted photos of the all women crew that operate the first Q400 and Boeing 737 flights today. SpiceJet pulled all plugs to engage with its audience, and the crew interaction was perhaps the most meaningful activity hitherto undertaken by any airline in India, on Women’s day. The message was clear – don’t just admire, ask and learn. SpiceJet may have been successful in not just inspiring, but guiding men and women seeking a career in the airline industry. Efforts of the management head and the airline social media team seem to have been energetic, and well co-ordinated. Sunday wasn’t an excuse.
While SpiceJet conducted a great, out-of-the-box and meaningful exercise on social media , one aspect where it perhaps fumbled was in blindly (though unofficially) promoting a poorly researched story about a SpiceJet woman pilot from a particular religious community that was carried in the mainstream media – Hindustan Times.
Social media take away – Do what SpiceJet did (not necessarily follow, but get inspired!). It was brilliant and out of the box. Also make social media mental checklists a habit, so that certain stories, when promoted, don’t damage the image of an individual or an airline.
Kudos to SpiceJet, for what it did. We’ll next have to convince them to form an ‘Aviation Day’ that we can observe and celebrate.
Air Costa, the Vijayawada based regional airline, has realized an operating profit in the month of December, 2014.
ATF sales tax at Andhra Pradesh, which was reduced to 1% from 16%, has positively benefited the airline. Three out of four aircraft rotation patterns have at least one stop at Andhra Pradesh, which allows the airline to tanker fuel out of the state. The Embraer E170s, which used to pay a flat sales tax of 4%, now pay only 1% within the state and 4% outside the state.
The airline’s tie up with Sovika Group to carry a target of 500 tonnes of cargo a month in the unused belly space of the aircraft has also contributed to the airline’s revenue stream via ancillary revenues starting December. It is estimated that the airline makes around INR 1 Cr per month for 500 tonnes of cargo.
The airline flies 34 flights a day between 15 city pairs, connecting 9 stations with four Embraer E Jets – two 112 seat E190s and two 67 seat E 170s. Of these, the airline enjoys a monopoly on three pairs: Jaipur-Chennai, Tirupati – Vishakhapatnam, and Vijayawada-Vishakhapatnam sectors, and a duopoly on five others. On the other sectors, the airline enjoys competition from just two other airlines. Two out of 15 routes are Tier II – Tier II city pairs, while just two city pairs are Tier I – Tier I. The other 11 are Tier I – Tier II city pairs : the market that has the highest growth potential. The airline stopped flying the Bangalore- Chennai sector – a short, crowded sector that is not suited for a 100 seat regional jet in the light of stiff competition especially from economical 70-80 turboprops and higher capacity Boeing 737-800 and A320 aircraft. While the turboprop is the right sized aircraft with favorable economics, for jet aircraft, this sector is unviable. However, deploying a Boeing 737-800 or an A320 on this sector can be commercially managed through low airfares that fill up an entire aircraft to break even. The E190 cannot compete due to its very significantly higher operating costs than an turboprop and its higher cost per seat compared to a mainline jet, on such a short, already crowded sector.
The network has been restructured to eliminate unprofitable routes and unfavourable patterns.
It is also possible that the disruptions faced by SpiceJet across its network could have benefited Air Costa. The airline shares two duopoly sectors with SpiceJet and three other sectors with SpiceJet and other airlines.
Another important factor that would have contributed to Air Costa’s profit is the high demand for domestic air travel in December. Tirupati, for instance, is preferred by many in December due to the favorable weather and the coincidence with the holiday season.
When compared to the 2014 Summer schedule, the airline has stopped flying five city pairs and added four city pairs. The most notable change has been in the drop in the number of Chennai connections. Connections to Chennai from Coimbatore, Bangalore, and Vijayawada have been snapped. Madurai as a destination was dropped soon after opening. The connection between Hyderabad and Jaipur has been snapped. The frequency of flights between Hyderabad and Chennai have dropped from 3 flights a day each way to just one.
Tirupati was opened towards late September. Direct Hyderabad – Coimbatore, Hyderabad – Tirupati, and Tirupati – Visakhapatnam sectors were commenced, and the Hyderabad – Vijayawada frequency was doubled.
Air Costa has stopped its three / four way routes : Bangalore – Jaipur – Hyderabad – Chennai (and the return), and Bangalore – Ahmedabad – Chennai (and the return), replacing these with direct Bangalore – Jaipur-Bangalore, Bangalore – Ahmedabad – Bangalore, Chennai – Ahmedabad – Chennai, and Chennai – Jaipur – Chennai routes.
Flights & Utilisation
From 40 planned flights a day in summer ’14, the airline today flies 34 flights a day, dropping routes that were unprofitable.
Compared to the Summer schedule, the aircraft utilisation has dropped, from an average of 12:53hrs to 11:42hrs per aircraft, a drop of 1:11hrs. E170s, which were planned for 11:00 -11:25hrs in summer presently are utilised to 9:45hrs-10:00hrs a day. E190s, which were planned for 14:30hrs -14:40hrs a day in summer today fly for 12:50hrs – 14:15hrs.
Chennai, from 10 departures a day as per the summer’14 schedule, has reduced to just three. Bangalore and Hyderabad have the highest departures – seven a day. It may be prudent for Air Costa to shift its E190 aircraft base from Chennai to Bangalore both in light of its importance and the benefits handed out by Bangalore Kempegowda International Airport for operators who station 50% or more of their fleet in the city and fly more than a million passengers annually through the airport.
Presently, Air Costa flies a total of about 26,000 passengers into and out of Bangalore, every month. The E190s contribute to about 17,500 passengers per aircraft per month. Should 4 additional E190s be stationed at Bangalore to fly point to point routes out of Bangalore, then the airline will cross 1 million passengers movements per annum at Bangalore.
According to earlier plans, the airline was to have received the 5th E190 (7th aircraft) in December 2014.