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.
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.
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.
AirAsia 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.
A 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.
When 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
The 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.
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.
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.
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.
Take off Thrust
*Based on FAA data. Quantified comparison omitted here as it’s too exhaustive.
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.
AirAsia 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.
SpiceJet’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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.
Tony hints at AirAsia India obtaining its AOP this week.
Note: Partly Speculative article about second aircraft and timelines, based on factual evidence.
AirAsia India presently has only one Airbus A320 airplane- An A320-216SL, registered VT-ATF, with line number 6015. A second Airbus A320, MSN 6096, is painted in the AirAsia scheme, bears the Indian flag, but may be registered 9M-AJM. (Malaysian registration).
This is very likely the second Airbus A320 to join the AirAsia India fleet, but the AirAsia group may have opted to temporarily induct it into the Berhad arm in light of the uncertainties and delays associated with obtaining the Air Operator Permit, or AOP, and later transfer it to AirAsia India once the AOP is received.
AirAsia India, however, successfully completed its proving flights on May 02, 2014, and is expected to receive its AOP very soon.
Tweeted Tony, today, “I think huge week for Airasia. I feel that Airasia India will be approved very soon.” (sic).
This contrasts Tony’s low mood almost a month ago, at Hong Kong, where he stated, “I have never experienced this in my life, where the entire aviation industry has tried to block us. We have been sued and taken to court by every person I know”
After the AOP is received, which is expected this week(and latest by May 15th, 2014), the airline will have to get its schedule approved by the DGCA, after which the airline can be officially “launched”, with the sale of tickets. This may happen towards end-May or the first week of June, and operations may commence either late June or early July, or as late as August, based on the airline’s sales campaign strategy.
The airline is expected to start operations with three airplanes. The new A320, if made to join the AirAsia India fleet, may do so in mid-May 2014.
Read in detail about the two day long proving flights: Day01, Day02.
AirAsia India’s second proving flight took off from Chennai at 10:13hrs local (0443hrs UTC). The aircraft, an Airbus A320-216SL, registered VT-ATF, is enroute from Chennai to Kolkatta (IATA: CCU, ICAO: VECC).
The route, Chennai-Kolkatta may not be offered by the airline, but is being flown as Kolkatta already has the necessary ground support from AirAsia Bhd (Malaysia).
Yesterday, the airline had flown Chennai-Cochin, Cochin-Bangalore, and Bangalore-Chennai – a total of 3 sectors. Today’s flights will fly 2 sectors: Chennai-Kolkatta (and the return), and Chennai-Bangalore (and the return), bringing the total to 7 flights.
Based on the performance of yesterday’s proving flights, which were to the DGCA’s satisfaction, no further proving flights may be necessary.
The proving flights are the last stage in the process of obtaining an Air Operator Permit. It will now be upto the DGCA to award the AOP. Whether the Delhi HC hearing based on seperate petitions filed by BJP leader Subramanian Swamy and the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) will come in the way of the award of the AOP is to be seen.
For more insight into proving flights, and expected timelines for AirAsia India, please click here.
Edit: Chennai-Bangalore added. This flight was overlooked. We apologize.
AirAsia India’s first and only Airbus A320 (-216SL), registered VT-ATF, took to the skies on its maiden proving flight at 0708hrs GMT (1238hrs IST) [32 minute pushback delay]. The routes flown today will be Chennai-Cochin, Cochin-Bangalore, and Bangalore-Chennai: all planned with a 25 minute turn around time. Another proving flight is scheduled tomorrow (May 2nd, 2014), but in the interest of the airline, the route will not be revealed by The Flying Engineer at this point in time.
A proving flight includes a representative selection of the destinations intended to be serviced. Proving flights can be flown on any sector, even if those sectors do not make it to the airline’s schedules. Further, actual flight schedules and routes are subject to DGCA’s approval.
The proving flights of AirAsia India make use of the ground support available at those destinations where AirAsia Berhad (Malaysia) flies. AirAsia Bhd presently flies into and out of Bangalore, Chennai, Kochi (Cochin), Kolkatta, and Tiruchirappalli (Tirchi).
The proving flight follows the successful conclusion of the Main Base Inspection (MBI) on the 19th of April, 2014, and the “Table-Top” exercise (Proving flight readiness check) on the 29th of April, 2014. The MBI was conducted at Chennai, and the “table-top” at Delhi.
The proving flight will have non-revenue passengers and cargo on board, including DGCA personnel and airline staff. Of the airline staff on board, one set of flight crew (2 pilots and 4 cabin crew (two male two female)) will conduct the flight, while the rest will act as passengers. During the course of the flight, DGCA officials will check for the airline’s demonstration of handling of normal and non-normal events (such as dealing with disabled passengers, passenger incapacitation, cabin fire, encountering unexpected turbulence), in accordance with airline’s approved Operations Manual. The airline’s manual was approved, earlier, by the DGCA.
At the end of the proving flights, if the DGCA team finds deficiencies in the airline’s compliance with the approved Operations Manual processes, and procedures or regulatory requirements, then another set of proving flights will have to be taken up to prove that the deficiencies have been addressed.
If the proving flights are successful in the first attempt, then the AOP is expected by the second week of May, 2014. Once the AOP is awarded, the airline must get its flight schedules approved by the DGCA. That is expected in the second half of May. Following the approved schedules, fares are decided upon, and the airline is formally launched, with the start of the sale of tickets. This is expected in the first week of June. The airline will need to sell sufficient tickets and undertake various marketing and promotional campaigns, which is expected to last for a month or two.
With these timelines, AirAsia India is expected to commence scheduled air transport flight operations only in July or August 2014.
Interestingly, AirAsia India has applied for a scheduled passenger air transport operator’s permit, and not a scheduled regional air transport permit, but may keep off the Tier I routes, and fly only those routes that are recognized by the DGCA as regional.
This May Day will be viewed as a “mayday” for some airlines in India, which have openly shown their discomfort with the arrival of AirAsia India.
Edit: Changed “Route Proving Flights” to “Proving Flights” based on a clarification to The Flying Engineer by Mittu Chandilya, CEO AirAsia India.
This piece clears the air over a possibly misleading media report in Business Today (BT), “DGCA plans to shut doors on low fuel landings”. The DGCA is right.
Delhi International Airport Limited (DIAL) is known to witness severe fog in winter, which is responsible for a significant number of flight diversions. In the winter of 2011, there were 57 diversions, which steadily grew to 89 in 2012, and 143 in 2013: a 60% yearly growth over the last three years.
To address these now unacceptable number of diversions in winter, the DGCA setup a committee in January 2014 to study the ways in which Delhi may be made a “zero diversionary airport”. The committee concluded the study with a report that included 27 recommendations, one of which was not well understood. Recommendation number 13 states, “AIP shall be amended to indicate that the term fuel emergency would not be recognised at Indian aerodromes.” That recommendation is valid, but was misunderstood by a section of the media.
Further, the BT report stated “DGCA justifies move by saying that airlines are expected to carry at least 1.5 times more fuel than what it actually requires during a flight but they generally carry less fuel.” This too shall be clarified.
An airplane is always expected to land with an amount of fuel in the tanks that is above a minimum quantity commonly referred to as “final reserve fuel”. When in flight, if the fuel quantity in the tanks dips below the reserve fuel quantity, the airplane is deemed to be in an emergency. This reserve fuel is the fuel required to fly at 1,500ft above the destination airport, for 30 minutes. For the Boeing 737-800, at typical loads, this is around 1,200kg. Larger airplanes, which consume more fuel in 30 minutes, consequently have a larger weight of fuel as reserve.
Until recently, there was no recommended standard phraseology to be used when the flight crew determined that the aircraft will infringe upon its final fuel reserves before landing. There were two widely used phrases: “Minimum Fuel”, and “Emergency Fuel”. Minimum fuel is an advisory to Air Traffic Control that should there be further delay for landing, the airplane will start eating into the reserve fuel. “Emergency Fuel” was a declaration of emergency, that the airplane has started eating into the reserve fuel. However, the interpretation of this term has been varied, with the FAA recognizing it as “The point at which, in the judgment of the pilot-in-command, it is necessary to proceed directly to the airport of intended landing due to low fuel.” Low fuel does not necessarily mean the final reserve fuel, and is a very subjective quantity.
Unfortunately, a declaration of “Emergency Fuel” would require Air Traffic Control to award the airplane priority. Priority is defined as no further delay into getting the airplane to land. This was reportedly abused by some airlines, including India’s only consistently profitable airline, to ensure that the airplane lands without burning further fuel. That is money saved.
India is a member of the United Nations (UN). The International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) is a UN Agency. ICAO works with member states, and industries and aviation organizations to develop international Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) which are then used by states when they develop their legally-binding national civil aviation regulations (CARs). The SARPs ensure uniform best practices, and safe, efficient , and secure flights through commonly understood standards.
Effective 15th November 2012, ICAO has amended ICAO Annex 6 Part I, to include:
“The pilot-in-command shall advise ATC of a minimum fuel state by declaring MINIMUM FUEL when, having committed to land at a specific aerodrome, the pilot calculates that any change to the existing clearance to that aerodrome may result in landing with less than planned final reserve fuel.”
“The pilot-in-command shall declare a situation of fuel emergency by broadcasting MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY,FUEL, when the calculated usable fuel predicted to be available upon landing at the nearest aerodrome where a safe landing can be made is less than the planned final reserve fuel.”
As a result, henceforth, ’Fuel Emergency’ or ‘fuel priority’ are not recognised terms. India not recognizing these two terms only aligns the country with ICAO standards, helping the country get out of safety audit downgrades.
Further, “Minimum Fuel” is only an advice to ATC, requiring no action by ATC, but “ MAYDAY, MAYDAY, MAYDAY,FUEL” is a declaration of an emergency, in which the ATC must assist the airplane in landing as soon as possible.
DGCA, in its Civil Aviation Regulation (CAR) that covers “Operation of Commercial Air Transport Aeroplanes”, states:
“A flight shall not be commenced unless, taking into account both the meteorological conditions and any delays that are expected in flight, the aeroplane carries sufficient fuel and oil to ensure that it can safely complete the flight. In addition, a reserve shall be carried to provide for contingencies.”
In accordance with the CAR, the airplane must at minimum carry the following fuel, for a flight from Bangalore to Delhi (1000NM), with 180 passengers on a Boeing 737-800W, with an assumption of no cargo. Quantities are derived from the airplane flight manuals and typical airline practices.
The fuel required to taxi from the gate to the runway.
The required fuel quantity from initiating take-off to the landing at the destination airport.
Typically 5% of the Trip fuel, but can be as high as 10%. caters to unforeseen circumstances or prediction errors.
The fuel required to execute a missed approach at Delhi and fly to an alternate airport (Jaipur in this case), in case landing at Delhi is not possible, due to issues like visibility.
Final Reserve Fuel
The final reserve fuel is the minimum fuel required to fly for 30 minutes at 1,500 feet above the alternate airport.
Based on statistically derived data at the airline, and also at the discretion of the Captain (based on his judgement and reports of a congested airport, or bad weather, or the like.) Assumed Zero for this example.
The sum of the fuels 1 – 6, which must be uplifted at the departure airport.
If the flight goes as planned, the aircraft should consume only the trip fuel, which amounts to 6,000kg. But the aircraft is filled with 9,000 kg of fuel, which is 1.5 times that of the trip fuel.
One of longest domestic flights into Delhi is from Bangalore, the others being from Chennai and Cochin. As flights get longer, the total fuel will fall below 1.5 times the trip fuel. As flights get shorter, the total fuel will amount to greater than 1.5 times the trip fuel. Since the Bangalore – Delhi flight is one of the longest domestic flights into Delhi, BT’s “DGCA officials” were not off the mark with a ballpark 1.5 figure, but that is a number that is written nowhere, must never be used for planning, and should not have been quoted in the first place. The Mumbai-Delhi sector (which is shorter) will consume only 4,000kg of fuel, but will need to legally carry a minimum of 6,900kg of fuel, which is 1.7 times the trip fuel.
1. The DGCA’s recommendation is not “highly controversial”, as reported by BT. The ambiguous term “fuel emergency” is not recognized and is replaced by standard phraseologies as described above. Flight safety is not compromised but rather improved.
2. DGCA cannot “shut doors” on low fuel landings, as reported. That means you can’t land if you’re low on fuel. What DGCA is doing is to ensure certain standard terminologies are used, doing away with old ones.
2. The laws are not ” draconian”, but progressive to keep up with ICAO standards.
3. A “1.5” figure is not justified, as it depends on many factors. However, if the DGCA official used it to throw a ball park ratio, he’s not off the mark. But later in the BT article is probably a typo which is misleading, “expected to carry at least 1.5 times more fuel“. It must read 1.5 times the trip fuel.
Edit: Added Cochin & Chennai to Delhi as other long flights into Delhi. Thanks to Cyril.
Air Costa has cancelled a significant number of flights listed in its approved Summer Schedule. As a startup airline with a different model, it faces issues on many fronts: one of which is an insufficient number of sufficiently qualified pilots to fly its four airplanes: two Embraer E170s and two Embraer E190s.
The sectors affected are those that are operated by its smaller Embraer E170 aircraft-with a seating capacity of 67 each: Vijayawada <-> Hyderabad, Chennai <-> Madurai, Chennai <-> Vijayawada, Vijayawada <-> Vishakhapatnam, Chennai <-> Coimbatore, Coimbatore <-> Bangalore, Bangalore <-> Vijayawada, Bangalore <-> Hyderabad, and some of the Bangalore <-> Chennai and Hyderabad <-> Chennai flights.
The Embraer E170s fly the shorter, thinner southern routes, while the E190s fly the longer, and thicker routes northbound out of the southern region, to Ahmedabad and Jaipur, connecting these cities to Hyderabad, Bangalore, and Chennai. The E190s also fly between Chennai <->Hyderabad, and Chennai <-> Bangalore, and connect Vishakhapatnam to Bangalore and Hyderabad.
The E170s account for 22 flights a day, or 55% of the airline’s daily flights.
The airline is tackling the situation by phone-calling each and every affected customer, explaining the situation and offering a full refund, contrasting a situation in late 2011 when the DGCA had pulled up IndiGo, SpiceJet, and the then-operational Kingfisher Airlines for having allegedly cancelled flights without informing passengers. Although the airline seems to maintain a low key when it comes to publicity, this act seems to highlight the airline’s customer focus: something no airline can afford to ignore, especially at the start-up phase of an airline.
Customer focus and on time performance are key factors for many passengers when choosing between airlines that offer matching fares.
Air Costa’s commercial flight operations commenced on 14th October 2013, exactly 6 months ago. The start-up phase, and the fact that the airline is the only operator of the Embraer E170/E190 airplanes in India, makes this a very challenging period for the airline.
The Reason: Pilot Shortage
The airline presently has 22 pilots qualified to fly on the E170/E190 airplanes. Typically, an airline requires 10 pilots per aircraft, or 5 sets of crew per airplane. With 22 pilots, there are enough to fly just 2 aircraft, leaving the two other airplanes with no crew.
The airline has chosen to fly the E190 airplanes, as its utilization on its network is much higher: 14.5hrs a day, which is upto nearly 2.5hours more than the E170s. Besides, the E190 with 112 seats in an all-economy cabin has a lower operational cost per seat, when compared to the E170.
The airline had planned for a sufficient number of pilots to fly the routes in the summer schedule, starting 5th April 2014, but that plan didn’t materialize. 8 foreign commanders were supposed to have cleared the Foreign Aircrew Temporary Authorization (FATA) examination-an exam conducted by the Indian DGCA to ensure foreign pilots are up to speed with Indian regulations- at least 15 days before Air Costa was to have kicked off its full network under the Summer Schedule. However, the crew did not clear the examination, which is held fortnightly.
Another 21 pilots will be joining the airline in a week, of which are the 8 FATA licence holders. The other 13 type rated pilots are Indians, of which 7 are commanders and 6 first officers. Recently, the airline hired 40 commercial pilots with no previous airline experience. Ground classes for these pilots are in progress at Vijayawada, before they’re sent for their Embraer E170/190 type rating. The type rating program may very likely be conducted at Jordan.
Flights under the approved summer schedule are expected to commence shortly, once the 21 pilots are available.
Air Costa is finding it difficult to have a sufficient number of qualified flight deck crew who may remain on standby, and also faces a shortage of examiners, who are instrumental in the release of Indian commanders and first officers. The airline is the only operator of the Embraer E170/190 family of airplanes, while every Indian other airline flies Boeing 737NGs and Airbus A320 family airplanes, eliminating the possibility of poaching experienced and ready-to-fly-on-type pilots.
The airline plans to add another 3 Embraer E190 aircraft to the fleet, one each in the months of August, October and December. As the fleet and flight crew members grown in number, the airline is expected to be less affected by such operational issues.
One of Air Costa’s two Embraer E170s developed a windshield crack when operating into Bangalore, today, forcing the airplane to stay on ground for a few days till the windshield is replaced. To prevent disruption in operations, one of the E190s will be pulled into commercial service. Air Costa’s E190s seat 112 passengers in a single class, 45 more than their dual-class E170s.
The E190, registered VT-LBR, operated the Air Costa LB649 Hyderabad (ICAO: VOHS, IATA: HYD) – Jaipur (ICAO: VIJP, IATA: JAI) flight, marking the first commercial flight in India involving an Embraer E190. The flight, scheduled to depart at 14:05hrs IST, departed at 15:24hrs IST, picking up a 01:19hr delay due to the unforeseen pull-out of the E190 from parking into line operations, and the pull-out of the E170 from line ops.
The E190s were expected to be inducted into commercial service on 5th April, 2014. This bittersweet incident marks another milestone in Indian regional aviation, while also serving to emphasize how at the start-up phase of an airline, when the fleet is small, the non-availability of one aircraft can have significant operational ramifications.
Air Costa plans to stand out from the competition with its fares, connectivity, and unmatched cabin seating convenience and comfort.
Air Costa yesterday received the approval from the DCGA to fly the Embraer E190s. Air Costa is the first airline in the history of Indian aviation to operate Embraer E190s. The airline started operations in October 2013 with two Embraer E170s.
The two Embraer ERJ E190s, with manufacturer serial numbers 593 and 608, registered VT-LBR, VT-LVR respectively, were delivered to Air Costa towards the second half of December 2013, and are leased from GECAS. However, the approval to fly the E190s arrived only 3 months later, due to exhaustive DGCA paperwork, some of which related to getting the aircraft type approved in India. The airplanes have been parked at Hyderabad-Shamshabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International (ICAO: VOHS IATA: HYD).
The two Embraer E190s are expected to be deployed into commercial service in the first week of April, and will fly the longer routes in the approved summer schedule. Since the ERJ 190’s license endorsement, as recognized by the DGCA, is “EMB170”, and common with the ERJ 170, pilots in the airline can fly both aircraft variants.
The E190s will be based at Chennai, and will be deployed on the following sectors: Chennai-Ahmadabad, Ahmadabad-Bangalore, Bangalore-Jaipur, Jaipur-Hyderabad, Hyderabad-Chennai, Chennai-Bangalore, Bangalore-Vishakhapatnam, Vishakhapatnam – Hyderabad.
Each aircraft will start operations at 0600hrs IST, and fly till 2340hrs IST, accumulating a total of 29 block hours per day over 18 flights, representing 56% of the entire fleet’s utilization. The E190s will be utilized approximately 30% more than the E170.
The Embraer E190s are an all-economy four abreast-single aisle cabin, with 112 seats laid out over 28 rows, with a 29/30-inch seat pitch (some seats will have a comfortable pitch of 30 inches, while the others will have 29 inches). Each of the seats are as wide as 18.25 inches, armrest-armrest, which is a good 1.25inches wider (and more comfortable) than the seats on SpiceJet’s Boeing 737s, and IndiGo, GoAir and Air Asia India’s Airbus A320s, which are all 17 inches wide. In addition, there are no middle seats: only either window or aisle, making the overall experience very comfortable. This comfort will make the airline’s product a preferred one, among regional airlines, today.
The 112 seat E-190 has 62% the capacity of an Airbus A320, which the airline feels is the right capacity for the markets they serve today. Another 4 E190s are expected to join the fleet this year.
Air Costa has been flying the E-170s with load factors greater than 70%.