Aero India 2015 – The ‘Show’


, , , , , , , , ,

ai15_03Aero India 2015 is lower in energy than ever. There are no big deals to announce, no big customers to woo. And that reflects in the energy at the show.

On the show front, there is a larger presence of civilian aerobatic teams. The Flying Bulls aerobatic team, the Scandinavian Airshow and the Breitling Wingwalkers, and the Yakovlevs Airshow Aerobatic team. The only other aerobatic team is the Indian Airforce’s Sarang helicopter team.

DSC_0993The Flying Bulls pulled out of the show after two of their aircraft collided mid-air, leading to prop damage to one and wing damage to the other. Incidentally, this was to have been the Flying Bulls’ last airshow on the Zlin 50XL aircraft, as these birds have reached the end of their airframe life.

Civil aircraft on static display includes a Dassault Falcon 7X, Falcon 2000, Pilatus PC-12, Dornier 228NG, Sukhoi Superjet 100, Let L-410 Turbolet, and an Embraer Pheonom 300.

Indoor presence is limited and low key. Original Equipment Manufacturers like UTC Aerospace have a modest stall, while a major airframer like Embraer have neither a stall nor a chalet. Dassault has a large stall, and that is only because of their optimistic outlook of the civilian and military Indian market.


SpiceJet’s ‘With All Our Heart’ VT-SZK Skymark 1:100 model review


, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,


The timing couldn’t have been more perfect. It’s the day of hearts, and the evening prior, FirstFlight delivered am almost 2 foot long box that had a photo of a SpiceJet aircraft on the side. The wait was over – VT-SZK ‘With all our heart’ was finally home, from SpiceShop, manufactured by Skymarks to a 1:100 scale.

SMR_01SMR_02Inside the box were layers of black foam that carefully housed in all eight parts – The 15 inch long fuselage with the nose gear pre-fitted, both wings with the engines and min gears pre-fitted, the two horizontal stabilizer pieces, the vertical tail, a wooden base stand, and a securing screw. It couldn’t get simpler. All pieces were were packed in plastic save the rudder and the horizontal stabs, which had made their way to the bottom of the box, where it may be prone to damage.

Assembly took just a minute, as all parts are snap fit and firmly stay in place.

From the stand, up!

SMR_04The stand for the model is made of two parts – a wooden base with a polished metallic plaque bearing the SpiceJet logo, the aircraft name ‘Red Chilli’, the aircraft model, registration, and the month and year it was delivered to SpiceJet. A matt finished aluminum support is secured to the wooden base via to screws, which were loose. You’d need a star (‘+’) screwdriver to tighten the screws, to prevent your model from wobbling with fake turbulence on the table. The support is keyed to align the hole on the support with the threaded hole at the bottom of the model’s fuselage. Slight alignment is necessary before the securing screw can be inserted.


VT-SZK was delivered to SpiceJet in May 2014, is leased from BOC Aviation, and is the airline’s prized airplane for many reasons. It finds a special place in the heart of perhaps all its employees for the singluar reason that it is the only airplane in the fleet to have an off-beat livery. The forward fuselage features three crew on either side. On the left is a lady captain flanked by two lady cabin crew, and on the right is a male captain flanked by two other lady cabin crew. The featured crew are: Capt. K. Rangarajan, Captain and Examiner, Boeing 737. Capt. Anushree Varma, Captain, Boeing 737, CCIC Roshika Chettri, CCIC Rashmani Singh, CCIC Prexa Kaushik, CC Lavi Choudhary.

The aft fuselage of the real aircraft is stickered ‘SpiceJet’ on the left, and ‘With All Our Heart’ on the right. Perfect for valentine’s?

1:100 – How scale is the model?

SMR_05The measuring tape determined the length of the fuselage to be approximately 15 inches. We say approximately because a collector would never get a hard surface to contact the fuselage, for fear fo damage to the decals. The real 737-800 has an overall length (nose to the trailing tip of the horizontal stabilizers) of 1,554 inches. 1,544 / 100 (scale) = 15.44 inches. Yup, the model passes the scale test. Since the wings, engines, and tails appeared proportional, we took the scale on all axes for granted.

SMR_07The most important aspect of any model airplane is the nose. Just as a human is identified by the face, and not the body, an airplane is only a scale model is its nose appears exactly like the real aircraft. Skymarks has got it right here. The model passes the major tests.

Testing Tougher

We shall progress from the nose to the tail, and examine every aspect.

SMR_08The nose is simply great – it couldn’t have been more ‘737’ like. The nose bay doors’ lower edge are curved, which is unlike the real aircraft (straight). The wheels are proportional, but do not move easily.

SMR_09The faces on the fuselage are a little bigger than what they should have been. This can be identified by the location of the face of the first cabin crew relative to the static port (the oval under the third passenger window). The ‘missing windows’ on the 737-8000 are reproduced here – two missing on the left, one on the right (to accommodate air conditioning ducts).

SMR_10The fuselage very clearly shows the line where the ‘double bubbles’ meet (the 737’s fuselage cross section is comprised of two intersecting circles)- see the image on the left with the red arrow, pointing to a visible dent line. Although nowhere this pronounced on the real 737, it allows one to appreciate the 737’s fuselage design.

SMR_11As we progress to the engines, we hit a pocket of disappointment. The engines that Skymarks has used are the Boeing 737- classic (300/400/500) engines, which have the ‘hamster pouch’ look – flattened bottom with a non-circular nacelle. The Boeing 737NGs have an almost circular nacelle. The engine fails the scale test big time. Further, the exhaust nozzle is also long. VT-SZK uses CFM 56-7BE engines, which have a shorter nozzle.

The detailing on the wing is good, complete with the walk zones, flap track fairings, and emergency exit markings. The double slotted flaps, spoilers, and ailerons with aileron tabs are marked on the upper surface. The fuel tank access panels are also marked on the lower surface.

SMR_12The red ‘paint’ on the outer portion of the winglet should have run further under the surface of the winglet.

SMR_13The main landing gears are simple, but the tyres are good. The model would have been more of a scale had they the white wheel caps as found on SZK. The wheel wells could have been painted black for higher level of detailing.

SMR_14The stabilizer and the vertical tail plane are both well detailed, complete with the trim markings (trim markings are not symmetric and so it should have been on the model). The APU inlet door, and APU exhaust are marked.


SpiceJet is the only airline in India to sell 1:100 models of its aircraft (though not on board their flights, but through their website), which is a big plus. The finish of the Skymarks 737-800 is overall good, but could be better with more detailing, such as fine print text near the statics. It is definitely a model for the collector, but does disappoint a bit when it comes to certain details. Hogan’s eye for detail is much better (Example: IndiGo’s A320 ‘Premium model’ sold on board), but then, they do not offer this large a scale.

On the pricing front, the Boeing 737 1:100 is available for INR 9,499 + 13.125% tax + INR 500 shipping = INR 11,246. On airlinemuseum, Skymarks 737-800s are available or US$95, which translates to INR 5,900. Add customs and freight, and the model’s price comes close to SpiceJet’s price, perhaps cheaper by a thousand or two (or three?). But SpiceJet’s price is justified by the limited edition of its infamous aircraft.

In short – a lovely airplane model, largely faithful to the 1:100 scale, and with a finish and color accuracy that is bound to catch eyes and make you stare speechlessly – with all (y)our heart! Must have for a serious model collector.



The Black Box Store – Aviation Themed merchandise


, , , , , , , ,

TBB_Banner_bMerchandise for aviation enthusiasts is usually the same offering, in different variations: Airplane models, Remove-Before-Flight key chains, and some apparel. Creativity is very limited, just to conform with the narrow range of acceptable designs that qualify one as ‘serious aviation enthusiast’.

This dogmatic approach to aviation enthusiasts has been challenged by The Blackbox store. And how? It has been founded by someone who is both in aviation and not in aviation. Specifically speaking, the founder, who is also a designer, is not really in aviation but supports aviation activities. The result? Numerous friends in operational aviation – pilots, cabin crew, engineers, ground support staff, and more. With many friends come many birthdays, and the want for differentiation drove the designer to unleash the creativity within to gift something that was both unique, yet evidently aviation.

What started with gifting friends has today evolved into a full time business. The Flying Engineer got in touch with the designer, and without unnecessarily overdoing it – fell in love with the range of merchandise targeted at the aviation enthusiast. It’s not another buy and resell store – it’s a store that sells in-house designs, all proprietary of the chief designer, who wants customers more than sales, satisfaction more than profits, because of the personal belief in ,”We’re here for the long run”. No diversions!

The best part of the designs are that they are simple and generic enough to be used / worn anywhere, and yet serve as a soft, classy voice that speaks on your behalf. To someone alien to aviation, most designs appeal as a good design. To someone right in aviation, the designs appeal as classy and fresh, strongly beckoning the avgeek inside. It’s not one of those merchandise and apparel that will want you to shy in a general party – it’s what you’d perhaps want to wear to not stand out as the odd one but mingle with the crowd and yet speak of where you come from.

I’ll be honest about this – the Blackbox store designs have appealed to us, and we’re getting a couple of samples for review – shipping takes a week! We’ll probably even buy the company out – that’s how much we’ve been impressed by what’s on show at the site (and hence we’ve decided to advertise them here). We just hope that what we get is close to or better than what’s been shown on the site. We’ll soon be in a position to decide, and we’ll let you decide for yourself, at


SpiceJet’s revival: Singh is King


, , , , , ,

SpiceQ400_BIALYesterday, SpiceJet announced 5,00,000 seats for sale, bringing back the airline’s ‘Sale’ after a gap of three months. This does send across a message that the airline has set its focus on staying afloat. We discuss SpiceJet under its re-crowned king: Ajay Singh.

Ajay Singh is believed to return to SpiceJet because of two reasons: Him being approached by Maran to revive SpiceJet, who was mulling over closing the airline; and the lower oil prices, and an economy that’s poised to grow. Being a BJP man, he was also approached by the government to salvage the airline, as an airline that bites the dust will imperil the investment climate in the country, posing strategic imperatives for many including the government. And the people, for whom airfares will increase.

The 2015 summer schedule, which comes into effective March 28th onwards, has been planned for 280 daily flights, to be operated with a fleet of 26 Boeing 737s and 15 Q400s – a 41 aircraft fleet, of which 39 will be active at any given time, up from today’s 16 Boeing 737s and 14 Q400s. The commercial team swung back into action, opening bookings till October 2015, and offering 5,00,000 seats for sale, boosting cash flows at the airline. Ajay’s idea is to bounce to a 35 aircraft Boeing fleet as soon as possible- which would be a challenge given that the airline today doesn’t have enough Boeing pilots to fly a fleet of that size. Reportedly, the airline by end of March will have enough pilots to fly only 15 Boeing 737s, as a significant number are serving their notice period. Ajay has appealed to these pilots to reconsider their decision to leave.

Ajay’s priority, as far as the Q400s are concerned, is to pressurize and renegotiate with the manufacturer – Bombardier, to make the turboprop fleet a profitable one, allowing the Q400s to stay for a longer period, and perhaps growing the fleet. Ajay was never in support of the Q400, but as in previous analysis on this site, the turboprops are good money makers, and are needed by SpiceJet to differentiate itself from a big player like IndiGo, by offering routes that are both commercially and technically unfeasible for narrow bodies to operate on. The only problems that SpiceJet may be facing are maintenance and support issues. Ajay looks to making the Q400 fleet ‘a profitable fleet’. SpiceJet has received immense support from Boeing, but has been disappointed with Bombardier who has apparently not behaved as fairly with the airline as they should have.

With money flowing in, Ajay aims to renegotiate all those bad contracts that have been signed.

Ajay wishes to treat the pilots who’ve recently left as furloughed, and looks to getting them back on board on priority. However, this would be a challenge from a technical, emotional and legal perspective, especially for those who have already started flying on another type.

Ajay Singh is looking to introduce a cultural change, or rather, bringing back a culture of transparency between the employees and the higher management. Ajay will look towards better employee and customer engagement, with his aim of achieving perfection in human interaction.

For example, although the present COO Sanjiv had made it clear to all employees that he was accessible anytime via email, there were others lower in the chain of command who had broken this link of direct communications. The Flying Engineer, who had interacted with certain operational staff, had vented out their frustration in not being able to reach the COO directly. Ajay Singh has been made aware of unwanted forces in the airline, and has initiated a task to indentify the negative, and the passionate, and separate these forces for the benefit of the airline, to bring back a cleaner culture they started with, in 2005.

Uplifting hot meals for the crew was recently resumed.

To bring in a greater sense of belonging and loyalty, Ajay Singh is looking to introduce an employee stock ownership plan (ESOP). He reportedly told a section of employees, “I want to see all of you owning a piece of SpiceJet”.

To help reset the airline to a comfortable position, Ajay Singh will put money into the airline, in three installments – February, March, and April. He’s already pumped in some money into the airline, but that may have been an emergency infusion to help with aircraft that lessors look to repossessing.

Ajay seems to know what he’s getting into. Sources quote him as saying, “Plenty of sh*t I get on my plate with this acquisition. It needs cleaning up, and it will take time to clean up. I’m still discovering the problems at SpiceJet.

Who sh*t on the plate?

Perhaps there is nothing quite as frustrating as working for someone who doesn’t grasp the basics of the business. Kaneswaran Avili, CCO at SpiceJet had tweeted on 14th November 2014, the day of a board meeting, “Aaaaiiyoo why no one understand RASK……”, very obviously referring to the board.

SpiceJet today is riddled with multiple problems, most of which are related to the airline being cash strapped for a fair period of time. Ajay being a director with SpiceJet since he sold his stake to the Marans in 2010, has kept a watch on the airline, and reportedly believes that the cash strapped situation arose because of some strategic decisions that went wrong in the early years of transfer to the Marans, and also because of certain commercial decisions which were taken primarily in the year 2013, which led to a significant cash burn for the airline, which the airline couldn’t recover from.

Having said that, Ajay reportedly doesn’t seem to throw the entire blame on Maran, as the latter’s background didn’t prepare him to take on airline – a business which is extremely competitive, and consumer centric, contrasting the other businesses he runs. Maran’s lack of involvement in the airline cost him.

Ajay feels he can make a difference, as his involvement in the airline he founded gives him a better understanding of the space. Ajay seems to be passionate about SpiceJet as a brand, and works hard to defend, just like Sanjiv Kapoor, that the present situation at SpiceJet is far different from that at Kingfisher in 2012.

While Ajay believes that the airline has a lot of positives to re-build on, including a strong team led by performers: Sanjiv and Kanesh, the external environment is fast changing – competition is stiffening. SpiceJet will have to play to its strength, to hopefully find itself in a healthier and comfortable state by May 2015 – a month when domestic travel demand is very high, and also the month the airline started operations in its present form, 10 years ago.

SpiceJet’s Q400s are here to stay


, ,


In the light of Ajay Singh taking over SpiceJet, media reports and general speculation had pointed that the revival plan of Ajay’s ‘include culling the 15 Bombardier Q400 regional aircraft from the airline’s fleet’. On the contrary, The Flying Engineer has learnt that SpiceJet’s Q400s are here to stay.

While the industry in general is led to believe that a single fleet strategy is best suited for a low cost carrier, based on the success of Southwest, Ryanair, AirAsia, and IndiGo, The Flying Engineer has firmly believed in a dual fleet strategy to effectively penetrate the Indian market. This is based on the Indian market which falls into three broad categories:

  1. Thick, long and short routes – markets which are mature and overcrowded, such as Bangalore- Delhi (long), and Bangalore -Goa (short).
  2. Thin, long and short routes – markets which are evolving (underserved, and unserved), such as Bangalore – Chandigarh, Bangalore- Vishakapatnam.
  3. Thinner, short routes – markets which will not mature easily – such as Vijayawada- Hyderabad, Bangalore-Belgaum.

The reason for the last market to not mature easily is the fairly good rail and road connectivity that is present between such city pairs. Yet, there is a segment (albeit small) of travellers who will pay for the time and convenience of air travel, which reduces an overnight journey to around an hour or so. Further, at many such destinations, the runways haven’t been upgraded to allow bigger jets to land, making them fit almost exclusively for turboprop operations with ATR72 (typ. 72 seats) and Q400 (typ. 78 seats). Since most travellers on this segment are those who value time and convenience, and because there is insufficient competition, an airline like SpiceJet enjoys good pricing power.

To support this, SpiceJet, in Q2 FY’15, realised a passenger-only RASK (excludes ancillary revenues) of INR 2.74/ASK, while the Q400s delivered INR 4.99/ASK. This passenger only RASK of the Q400 was higher than the average RASK (including ancillary revenues) of INR 3.26/ASK.

In Q2, the Q400 flew only 8.13% of the airline’s total deployed capacity, yet contributed to nearly 14% of the airline’s total passenger revenue. Interestingly however, the Q400 made up 30% of the airline’s fleet in Q2, but had only 14% of the airline’s total aircraft seats.

What worked the most against the Q400 was the maintenance costs, which The Flying Engineer has been led to believe is a problem of the past, when maintenance facilities were not available in the sub-continent. Perhaps the selection of the aircraft wasn’t right, but the dual fleet concept wasn’t wrong.

Should SpiceJet bounce back with the infusion of funds, the airline may have to redo the Q400 network a bit and play the aircraft to its strength, better feeding into the mainline network with traffic from Tier III routes. This is one of the ways a smaller player in the market can hope to survive through differentiation, and monopoly / duopoly, especially when established routes are crowded with very low margins.

The days of a dual fleet jet – a mainline narrow body complimented by a regional jet, are not far off, either.

Vistara: Aggressive growth beyond its unbaked proposed route pattern


, , , ,


When the DGCA notified the public that TATA-SIA airlines, now operating under the brand name Vistara, had applied for an Air Operator Permit, the DGCA had made public the joint venture’s proposed route pattern, detailed below.


In the light of the temporary relaxation in meeting route dispersal guidelines handed to Vistara, The Flying Engineer analyses the proposed route pattern for year 1.

The proposed route pattern, as handed over to the DGCA during the application phase during April 2014, had listed Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Srinagar, Jammu, Patna and Chandigarh as destinations – either non-stop or with one stop, from Delhi. Based on the weekly frequencies, we’ve computed the average daily frequency, and computed the capacity (in available seat kilometers – ASK) as per ICAO’s Air Transport Bureau (ATB) guidelines.

The proposed route pattern for one year generates enough capacity on CAT IIA, but generates a CAT II capacity that just meets or falls slightly short (0.18%) of meeting the capacity as stipulated by the existing (at the time of writing this piece)  Route Dispersal Guidelines (RDG) as laid down by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), India. However, the airline, in its original proposed route pattern, could notwhere have met the required capacity on CAT III routes, as shown in the table on top.

The airline’s present pattern, which includes DEL-BOM vv, and DEL-AMD-BOM vv, does not conform with the original proposed pattern. The frequency on DEL-BOM nonstop is already 21 a week, each way. The DEL-AMD-BOM pattern, which was to have kicked in during the second year of operations, started on the second day of the airline’s operations.

A very smart move that Vistara may have made is to push its requirement to meet the RDG three months later, which is April 2015 onwards. This benefits Vistara in two ways:

  1. It allows the airline to make money in a lean season by flying on business routes which are not much affected by seasonal variations, while ramping up fleet and mainline network strength.
  2. It will allow the airline to deploy disproportionally high capacity on CAT II/IIA and CAT III routes (to compensate for the first three months of operation, starting January 9th 2015) during the summer (Q1 FY15-16 / Q2 CY15), when demand for travel is high, due to a holiday season.

With this strategy, the airline may be able to minimise its losses in Q4 FY’15 and perhaps maximise its revenues in Q1 FY’16.

Statistically, Bangalore ranks the third among all cities in India as far as domestic passenger movements are concerned. In FY13-14, Bangalore witnessed 10.2 million passenger movements, which is after Delhi (24.2 million) and Mumbai (21.9 million). Besides Tier I cities, Ahmedabad had the highest traffic, of 3.6 million passenger movements. Going by Vistara’s priority in tapping lucrative, proven markets, Bangalore may be either the next Tier I destination or simply the next destination after Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Goa witnesses the third highest passenger movements among non-Tier I cities, and may also become the airline’s next Tier II destination (CAT III route). It will not be surprising to see Vistara choose Pune as another Tier II destination, soon. Pune had the second highest non- Tier I traffic after Ahmedabad, at 3.5 million movements.

The original pattern would have required an average of 51:40hrs of block time to be clocked, per day (which will vary on a daily basis based on non-daily flights). The actual daily block time would have been between 50:30hrs to 53:20hrs. Assuming a conservative 10hr aircraft utilisation – per day per aircraft, the airline will require 6 aircraft to fly the original proposed pattern. The airline already has two aircraft flying, and a third in Delhi. Two others are ready at Toulouse and will be delivered by March end (2015), taking the total to five. With one aircraft per 1.5 months expected post March 2015, Vistara may be able to fly its original planned network in May 2015, should it still hold. But considering that the airline may end 2016 with 13 Airbus A320-232SL aircraft, it is likely that Vistara will far outgrow its original proposed network, even with the backlog of RDG – mandated capacity that will have to be flown.

With this in mind, it may not be surprising to see Vistara expand its network to Guwahati, Kolkata, along with few other stations. The projected growth seems both achievable yet aggressive.

Network service and on time performance are important yet just two of many factors that influence people to choose an airline. Vistara is just one of three full service carriers in India, bringing with it a strong brand formed by established and well known players – Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons. This will attract the discerning traveller. Full service carriers play the yield game, generated largely by the first class in their aircraft – the business class. The airline has 16 business class seats on each of its aircraft.

However, the only product differences between a low cost carrier and the premium economy (36 seats) and economy sections (96 seats) of Vistara are the food, the renowned oriental style emphasis on service and higher pitch comfortable seats, as the airline offers no in flight entertainment options or support. How these two cabin sections of Vistara will compete with other airlines is to be seen. For example, for travel on February 15th between Mumbai and Delhi (based on a search at the time of writing this piece), airlines including Jet Airways charge as little as INR 3,000 one way, while Vistara holds its ground at 6,520 one way. Whether brand name will prevail in a generally cost sensitive market is to be seen. However, there is also an emerging trend amongst people with disposable income who look forward to enjoying their money.

Air Costa realises an operating profit


, ,

PATTERN-11JAN15Air 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.

Route wise CompetitionThe 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.

Route Deletions

CITY PAIRSWhen 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.

Route Additions

Tirupati was opened towards late September. Direct Hyderabad – Coimbatore, Hyderabad – Tirupati, and Tirupati – Visakhapatnam sectors were commenced, and  the Hyderabad – Vijayawada frequency was doubled.

Route Modifications

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

Station wise acft & depFrom 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.

GoAir’s misleadingly worded ‘Winter Offer’


, ,


When GoAir announced yesterday its intention to offer 17 lakh (1.7 Million) seats for sale for the travel period between Jan 01, 2015 and March 31st 2015, there was something misleading, yet not dishonest about the advertisement.

The advertisement, ‘Winter Offer – 17,00,000 air tickets for travel from January 1 to March 31, 2015 – Fares Rs. 1,469* onwards. Book now!‘, projected the offer as a large volume sale, perhaps on the lines of SpiceJet’s, during the latter’s better days.

The result? The ‘Winter Offer’ attracted many visitors to its website, making the website slow, unresponsive, and at times – not load at all. But the attention it gathered was based on perhaps a misleading wording of the offer.

Go Air is a small sized, Airbus A320 operator. Each aircraft flies just 176 seats, as four middle seats in the first two rows are left vacant as part of the Go Business offering. This airline flies to 22 destinations, on mostly mature routes which the airline claims are ‘profitable’ (in reality, profitable for the capacity of the aircraft). On average, the airline flies 128 flights a day – all domestic – and carries some 20,000 passengers a day. 20,000 passengers translate to 18 lakh (1.8 Million) passengers across three months.

On a lean season to lean season basis, GoAir’s capacity has grown 15%. Based on this, this year’s Q4 FY2014-15 : January, February & March – the period of travel for the ‘Winter Offer’ – may fly close to 21 lakh (2.1 Million) seats, of which 5.8lakh (0.58 Million) seats are expected to fly empty in the absence of a market stimulation.

In short, GoAir offers a sale of ‘17,00,000 air tickets ‘ when the airline can fly a maximum of only 21,00,000 seats, making the number of tickets up for grabs 81% of the expected capacity to be deployed, while only 5,80,000 seats (27% of the expected capacity to be deployed) are expected to fly empty in the Q4 lean season. It’s these empty seats that an airline usually tries to fill via an offer or discount.

The real, discount offers may be available for a maximum of around 5,80,000 seats, while the remaining seats may sell at close to the regular fares, as it still falls under the bracket of ‘Fares Rs. 1,469* onwards‘.

We expect only about 35-40% of the 17 lakh seats to sell abnormally fast in this offer period, as these may represent seats that are priced lower than regular fares. The balance 60% may not witness an abnormal purchase rate, and a large portion may remain unpicked. In the event that the 35-40% target is not met, the airline may perhaps come out with another offer to sell excess inventory in advance. In this sale, the airline has withheld ~20% of its capacity (4 lakh seats), which correspond to about 35 seats a flight, which may include both pre-sold seats as well as seats which may be bought in the last one to two weeks of travel, at high prices. Of these, 8 seats per flight are Go Business, which are priced at between 1.5 – 3 times the regular fares.

The five day sale window is abnormally close to the travel period which starts as soon as six days later – a debatable decision.

GoAir chief executive Giorgio De Roni told PTI ,”The January-March quarter is traditionally a lean quarter… The purpose of introducing these fares is to make air travel affordable during the period”. That statement has proved to be very interesting, considering that in the lean season airfares are usually lower, as capacity is higher than demand. The only time airfares rise is when carriers sell their excess inventory early, thereby not putting any pressure on the pricing as the date of travel approaches.

The best way to read the offer is by separating, “17,00,000 air tickets for travel from January 1 to March 31, 2015” and “Fares Rs. 1,469* onwards. Book now!”.

Brand Salvaging – Automated Disruption Management at SpiceJet


, ,

Spice_737_VIDPSpiceJet has automated the process of applying for a refund or modifying the flight booking should the flight be delayed by more than 90 minutes. Rescheduling the flight under these circumstances, as reported by the airline, comes at no charges. The steps are self explanatory and on the airline’s website.

This seems to have been a move taken by the airline in response to unbearably long queues in congested call centre lines. With heavy disruptions in the airline’s flight schedule over the past few days and weeks, prompting action from the DGCA, the airline came under flak from passengers, resulting in a brand image that was spiraling down in the light of poor service (On time performance and flight realization are very large contributors to service quality).

Reportedly, “This is the first time ever an airline has automated disruption management to enable passengers find alternatives”.

The airline has reportedly been flying additional flights to cater to affected passengers. The efforts taken by the management team over calendar year 2014 seem to have been negated by the effects of a lack of funding at the airline which led it to the crisis it is in today.

The management seems confident of a future for the airline with new investors coming on board to fly it out of difficult times. With such hopes, it is necessary to cater to the flyer of today for a loyal base for tomorrow.

About Vistara – the new Full Service Carrier in India


, , , , , ,

VistaraThree days after securing its Air Operator Permit (AOP), Vistara opened for bookings, for flights 9th January 2015 onward. This marks the start of commercial operations in Q4 FY2014-15, a period which is traditionally the second weakest season for Indian domestic travel.

The airline places itself as a full service carrier (FSC), with a three class cabin.

Vistara Business ClassUK MealRows 1 – 4 feature a four abreast Business Class Cabin with 16 seats. The seats sport a 42-inch seat pitch, with a 7-inch recline. Business class passengers will be pampered with a meal service with fine linens and bone china tableware. Meal options – for all classes – are shown on the left.  Business class passengers will have a separate check-in counter at airports. Passengers are entitled to 30kgs check in and 7kgs carry-on baggage. Fares are in two categories – Business Flexi and Business Saver, with the expensive former waiving off a change fee while allowing the ticket to be valid for 12 months.

Rows 5 – 10 feature a six abreast Premium Economy Class Cabin with 36 seats. The seats sport a 33-inch seat pitch, with a 4.5-inch recline. This cabin section includes two emergency exits at rows 9 and 10. These rows offer a 36 inch legroom, but the recline is unavailable on row 9 and perhaps restricted on row 10 due to the cabin partition wall right behind. Passengers are entitled to food and beverage. Premier Economy class passengers will have a separate check-in counter at airports. Passengers are entitled to 20kgs check in and 7kgs carry-on baggage Fares are in two categories – Premium Flexi and Premium Saver, with the expensive former waiving off a change fee while allowing the ticket to be valid for 12 months.

Vistara_Capacity_DistributionRows 11 – 27 feature a six abreast Economy Class Cabin with 96 seats. There are only 16 rows in this section, but the row numbering skips the number ’13’, misleading one to believe there are 17 rows. The seats sport a 30-inch seat pitch, with a 3.5-inch recline. The seat thickness will determine the actual legroom available. For example. IndiGo’s 29-inch seat pitch with its ultra slim dragonfly seats are thin enough to offer the equivalent of a 31-inch seat pitch legroom with standard seats. Passengers are entitled to food and beverage. Economy class passengers will have a separate check-in counter at airports. Passengers are entitled to 15kgs check in and 7kgs carry-on baggage Fares are in two categories – Economy Flexi, Economy Saver, and Economy Super Saver, with the expensive first option waiving off a change fee while allowing the ticket to be valid for 12 months.

In addition, passengers who have web-checked in will have a separate counter to drop off check-in baggage. The airline also offers an auto check in service, in which if the passenger has not self checked-in at 4 hours prior to scheduled departure time, the airline will auto check the passenger on the flight and send the boarding pass via SMS or email.

In total, every aircraft is configured with 148 seats.

The lower number of passengers and dedicated counters may check in a smooth experience. Being a FSC, load factors may hover around the 75% range, leading to just 111 passengers per flight, on average – possibly a smooth boarding experience.


Vistara’s IATA code is ‘UK’. On the first day of Operations – Friday, the 9th, January 2015, the airline will operate only on the Mumbai-Delhi and return sectors. Vistara’s regular flight numbers are expected to start with ‘9’. However, on January 9th, the airline will operate two flights to Mumbai from Delhi and one flight to Delhi from Mumbai, all with special flight numbers – 895, 890, and 228. Flights to and from Ahmadabad will commence the next day, on the 10th of January. With this, one aircraft will be stationed at Mumbai.

The first commercial flight will be operated as UK890, which Departs Delhi at 12:30IST and arrives at Mumbai at 14:45 IST.

The airline will commence operations with two aircraft, both Airbus A320-232SL, registered VT-TTB and VT-TTC. The airline will operate the following patterns from 10th January, with the first pattern for an aircraft out of Mumbai and the second for an aircraft out of Delhi. The pattern holds good for most days, with certain changes on Sunday. Reportedly, the pattern will run till 15th February 2015.

Vistara_PatternThe airline will operate from Terminal 2 of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, and Terminal 3 of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport.

AirAsia India starts 3 aircraft operation


, , , , , , , , , ,

AirAsia 3 aircraft

AirAsia India made two firsts for itself in a span of two days. On 17th December, it started operating to Pune, connecting Pune to Jaipur. The airline operated its first non-immediate base return point to point route, with Bangalore-Pune-Jaipur-Pune-Bangalore. Although AirAsia India CEO Mittu told The Financial Express that “This is the first time we will be having a hopping flight“, the airline does not offer a Bangalore-Jaipur booking with Pune as a stop (hop). The flight number changes from 1424 to 3424 and 3425 to 1425. AirAsia today is the only airline to offer a direct flight between Pune and Jaipur.

VT-REDOn 18th December, the airline started operating with its third aircraft : VT-RED, which is an A320-216SL with MSN 5824. The aircraft is a 1 year old airplane from AirAsia Berhad, which operated the aircraft as 9M-AQW. This is AirAsia India’s second used aircraft, and on account of its age, the oldest aircraft in the fleet. The average fleet age now stands at 10 months.

VT-RED flew in from Hyderabad at 00:40IST on 18th December. VT-RED breaks the VT-AT* series that the airline had hoped to continue. Reportedly, this is in line with AirAsia’s move across the group to focus on a ‘red’ theme. AirAsia Berhad changed its radio call sign from ‘Asian Express’ to ‘Red Cap’ on 16th November, 2014. It is believed that AirAsia India’s radio call sign ‘Ariya’, may be changed to something that includes ‘red’.

On the same day – 18th November- the airline introduced its second direct Jaipur service from Bangalore. Jaipur’s timings now support the business traveller in offering a same day return.

Presently, the airline intends to fly these three patterns, as shown below. However, with three pairs of simultaneous departures out of Bangalore, the airline may swap blocks of flights between the patterns. For example, the 13:15 Goa departure in Pattern 1 (cell in yellow) may be swapped with the 13:15 Pune departure in Pattern 3. Pune’s timings vary on Saturdays and Tuesdays.

 AirAsia 3 acft pattern

Performance and Outlook

AirAsia India seems to have indefinitely dropped its Chennai early morning flight. The airline has been grappling with numerous delays in its operations, believed to have been caused by its shortage of senior cabin crew. The start of Pune operations on the 17th without the third aircraft proved to have heavily disrupted the airline’s schedule on the day, with delays as much as five hours.

For the month of November, the airline had the second highest cancellation rate of 2.65%, which trailed SpiceJet – an airline that was riddled with numerous cancellations. Delays, which were very pronounced in November, and spills into December, resulted in 1,451 passengers being affected last month – the 4th highest in the industry. 225 passengers were affected by the airline’s cancellations. Considering the airline flew 61,000 passengers in November – a drop of 5,000 passengers from October – the percentage of affected passengers are significantly high.

Load factors at AirAsia India rose by 3.6% compared to October, to 79.8% in November. While this may seem encouraging, it must also be borne in mind that the airline deployed a lower capacity in November, due to cancellations. In November, the airline flew 10,173 lesser seats, resulting in a seat capacity drop of 11.7% compared to October. Part of the high load factors may be explained through the servicing of affected passengers by re-booking them on another flight. Clubbing of flights, like at SpiceJet lead to misleadingly high load figures.

Based on AirAsia India’s past behaviour, it seems unlikely that the airline will launch either a new route or induct a new aircraft by the end of calendar year 2014. The year may end with three airplanes and seven destinations.

However, the airline has been the most unpredictable in the country’s history, with ”Anything can happen’ gaining prominence over ‘Now Everyone can Fly’.

Air India Regional gets its first ATR 72-600


, , , , , , ,


Air India Regional, better known as Alliance Air, received its first ATR 72-600 at Toulouse. The ATR 72,600 with MSN 1197 is registered VT-AII, and becomes the first ATR 72 for Air India and the fourth ATR 72-600 after VT-JCX/Y/Z that fly for Jet Airways. The aircraft, leased from Singapore-based leasing firm Avation, is the first out of five that the airline will receive until July 2015.

ATR42-320Air India Regional presently has about four ATR 42-320s (see photo on the left), which are all about 20 years old. The brand new and longer fuselage ATR 72-600 brings to Air India’s passengers a leap in cabin noise and comfort. The -320s have a four bladed propeller, while the -500s and -600s have a six bladed propeller.

The new ATR 72-600 is configured with 70 seats, compared to 48 that are fitted in the shorter ATR 42. This will allow Air India to either stimulate the markets which it caters to with this aircraft, or cater to those that have grown beyond 50 seats.

Mr. Rohit Nandan, Chairman, Alliance Air stated that “We are pleased to introduce into our fleet an aircraft which has clearly become the new reference among all regional planes. The ATRs have proven for years their reliability and their ability to bring our passengers to every destination of our regional network”.

Patrick de Castelbajac, ATR Chief Executive Officer, said that “We have partnered with Alliance Air for more than 10 years, and we are honored by this new proof of confidence in the ATR aircraft family. The new ATR 72-600 perfectly fit with the aim of the airline to progressively renew their fleet with more fuel-efficient aircraft, while adding seat-capacity into their main routes.”

According to ATR, the 72-600 has a maximum take-off weight of 23,000kg, and can carry a max payload of 7,500kg over 900NM.

Air India regional joins Jet Airways and Air Pegasus as operators of the ATR 72. Turbo Megha is soon expected to become the 4th operator.


Air Vistara conducts first two proving flights, AOP expected on 15th December


, , , , , ,


Air Vistara, the newest Indian airline working towards an AOP, conducted its first two proving flights on 4th and 5th December, 2014, as officially confirmed by the airline. The first flight took off from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport at around 22:10IST (16:40UTC) on December 4th and landed at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at 5 minutes past midnight (00:05IST/18:35UTC) on 5th December. The return flight took off at 01:10IST (19:40UTC) and landed at Delhi at around 02:50IST (21:21UTC).

Proving flights are the last stage of a lengthy process involved in securing an Air Operator Permit (AOP). Considering that the proving flights may wrap up by 7th December, the AOP may be awarded on 15th December, after the completion of the FAA Audit of DGCA, which is hoped to be completed on the 12th December 2014. The airline may start operations early January.

When operations start, it will be the first full service carrier to be launched in a decade. Kingfisher airlines commenced operations in 2005 and no full service, pan-India carrier has since been launched.

The airline was awarded its NOC from the aviation ministry on the 3rd of April, 2014, and applied for an AOP on the 22nd of April, 2014. The eight month period between AOP application and approval is similar to the period taken to award AirAsia India’s AOP.

Vistara has two Airbus A320-232SL aircraft (A320/IAE V2527-A5 engines/Sharklet equipped) in its fleet, of which one is completed in the airline’s livery. The liveried aircraft performed the proving flight.

The airline plans to have six flights between Delhi and Mumbai in the first year of operations. Other destinations planned in the first year of services are Goa, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Srinagar, Jammu, Patna and Chandigarh. The DGCA’s Civil Aviation Policy CAP 3100 stipulates that the airline ‘will be required to conduct a minimum of 5 flight sectors on intended routes, with total duration of not less than 10 flight hours’. The Delhi – Mumbai route contributes to around 1hr 40 minutes one way, adding to 3:20hrs for both ways. The airline will have to fly another 6:40hrs. Should the airline fly Delhi-Bangalore and back, it will add around 4:40hrs. The balance 2:00hrs may be picked up by flying either to Ahmedabad or Patna and back.

The liveried aircraft, registered VT-TTB, is the first aircraft that the airline received on the 24th of September, 2014, at Toulouse. The second aircraft, registered VT-TTC, was handed over to the airline five days later, on the 29th of September, 2014. The first aircraft got its livery at Singapore, and landed back at Delhi on the 15th of October, 2014, coinciding with the 82nd anniversary of JRD Tata’s first commercial flight from Karachi to Mumbai.

Three other aircraft, registered VT-TTD, TTE, and TTF are at Toulouse, reportedly not delivered in the light of the uncertainty associated with the DGCA’s delay in granting the new airline company its Air Operator’s Permit. The fifth aircraft recently flew to Hamburg, Germany, where the cabin interiors are fitted.

The airline plans to have a fleet of current engine option (CEO) and new engine option (NEO) A320 aircraft. The first 20 Airbus aircraft are to be leased from BOC Aviation – a Bank of China company that has its origins in Singapore Airlines. The duration of the lease agreement is six years for the A320-200 CEO aircraft and twelve years for the A320-200NEO aircraft.

AirAsia India changes schedules and pattern to tackle operational issues


, ,

Pattern_AAI_Dec_pre-17thAirAsia India, which is believed to be facing a shortage of Senior Flight Attendants, has modified its schedule and pattern to address two problems: shortage of crew, and a poorly performing route.

The airline has cancelled its Bangalore – Chennai return early morning for a long time now. The airline previously had two distinct aircraft patterns – ten short sectors (Goa, Kochi, Chennai) on one, and two long and one short on the other (Goa, Chandigarh, Jaipur). The new, effective pattern does not fly the early morning Chennai and return, while advancing the 15:10 Goa flight to 13:15. The 18:35 BLR-MAA flight has been moved to 16:30, with a corresponding change to the return flight. The late night Bangalore-Kochi flight has been pushed to a departure 25 minutes later.

As a result of these changes, the airline presently operates just 14 daily flights as against its usual 16. Aircraft utilisation has gone up on the first pattern from 10:15hrs to 13:35 thanks to the Jaipur flight, while the second pattern’s utilisation has dropped to 7:35 in considering the early morning Chennai cancellation. The yellow highlighted cells belong to flights that were moved from one pattern to the other.

Most of the re-scheduling may have been done to better match the cabin crew’s flight duty time limitation (FDTL). As a result, the airline’s schedules had become fairly chaotic in November, with a significant number of cancellations and delays.

This month, two Airbus A320s are expected to join AirAsia India’s fleet from parent group AirAsia. The airline will fly to Pune from Bangalore and Jaipur from Pune effective 17th Decmeber, for which the aircraft are expected on Indian soil between the 10th and 15th of December. To cater to the new routes without disturbing the present schedule, just one additional aircraft is required in the airline’s fleet.

The airline was affected by the DGCA’s directive barring management pilots from assuming training positions. One of the airline’s captains, who reportedly has tendered his resignation but is serving his notice period, has been recognized by the DGCA as a Type rating Instructor (TRE). The airline also has a foreign captain from the AirAsia group serving as a training pilot.

Meanwhile, Subramanian Swamy had last evening tweeted about a Delhi High Court Hearing today, concerning both AirAsia India and what he may have meant as Vistara.


Fly Easy – A possible regional startup


, , , , , ,

Fly Easy

Update: A new piece on this airline was brought out on 10th July 2015. Click Here to read the update.

Fly Easy (India), the brand name of a Bangalore based regional airline proposed to be started by ABC Aviation and Training Services Private Limited, has called for applications for positions in ten departments in the company.

The startup-airline company had received its initial NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the aviation ministry on the 18th of January, 2012. This is five days earlier than Air Costa’s first NOC which was issued on the 23rd of January, 2012.

The initial NOC is valid for a period of 18 months, and must be renewed every six months thereafter to maintain its validity. The airline is presently in its third (3rd) renewal, and will have to apply for its fourth (4th) renewal on the 23rd of January 2015.

The airline may apply for its AOP during its 5th renewed NOC period, if all goes as per plan. However, it is uncertain if the airline has sufficient funds to start operations.

The airline reportedly has an authorised capital of INR 12 Crores. This would have been just sufficient (only to meet regulatory requirements, insufficient for operations though) to start an airline with aircraft such as the E170 and E175. However, for an airline that plans to fly the E190s (or heavier aircraft), the regulatory requirement is a minimum paid up capital (not authorized capital) of INR 30 Crores minimum. The airline’s reported authorized capital is not in agreement with the airline’s plans to fly E190 aircraft.

As of today, the airline aims for a regional scheduled operator’s permit for the Southern Region – the most lucrative region for regional operations in the country. Earlier news reports had indicated Guwahati, Amritsar and Surat as ‘priority’ destinations. The airline indicates its plans to have a fleet of Embraer E-190 aircraft. Such  aircraft will help any airline tap long, thin markets that are either underserved or virgin. Aircraft with the range and capacity of an Embraer E190 (a little more than 100 seats – 112 in the case of Air Costa) gain prominence in the light of the saturation and focus of/on mature markets – Tier I routes and certain Tier III routes.

The airline’s website is up, and the brand colours, design and theme are perhaps the best amongst startup regional airlines in the country.

The airline company has an office at Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport’s Alpha 3, though the company is  registered at Trivandrum, at an area just south-east of Trivandrum international airport.

The airline company has four directors – Rafi Sainulabdeen Mohammed, Rajesh Ebrahimkutty Majidha Beevi, Sanaulla Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan and a ‘Rajesh’.

As per the airline’s website, the CEO is Finn Thaulow. It is uncertain whether he is the CEO or still a CEO-designate. The approximately 60 year old Norwegian CEO was formerly with FlyMe Europe, and Syrian Pearl Airlines. During his tenure as CEO at FlyMe Sweden, the airline, which operated Boeing 737 Classics (-300 & -500), filed for bankruptcy in March 2007. The sudden closure affected numerous passengers who had purchased tickets from the airline.

In 2011, trial against FlyMe was initiated, in which the CEO, Finn Thaulow, along with three others were charged. Finn Thaulow was charged with ‘serious accounting fraud’, as reported by Gotheborg Daily- a Swedish Daily. Reportedly, the four accused ’emptied the company of 40 million kronor in the winter of 2006 through a fictitious transaction involving the purchase of shares in River Don Ltd’. At this moment, we have been unable to establish the result of the trial.

Syrian Pearl Airlines, which was founded in 2008, with Finn as the CEO, started operations in May 2009 with a BAe 146-300. The airline had entered into a ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, Insurance) agreement with Orion Air of Spain, concerning two BAe 146 aircraft, one of which it started operations with. According to the US Department of Commerce, the agreement was a breach of US export regulations. Finn had privately appealed against a temporary denial order (TDO), stating that it was Orion Air’s responsibility for ‘obtaining all necessary licenses and governmental approvals on Orion Air before sending the two BAE 146-300 aircraft to Syria’. The airline ceased operations three months after its commencement, when the lessor Orion Air pulled out due to the US sanctions imposed on it.

Finn Thaulow was on the shortlist for Tarom’s board of directors. Tarom is the flag carrier of Romania.

Prior to FlyME, Finn was the Vice President of Alliances and Corporate partners at SAS Scandinavian Airlines – the flag carrier of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. He was also part of Spanair’s management team. Spanair, which ceased operation in 2012, was a Spanish airline, and a subsidiary of the SAS Group during Finn’s engagement.

Finn has over 25 years of aviation experience, and that may immensely benefit the airline, should it take-off.

DGCA responds to The Flying Engineer

On 14th November 2014, the Flying Engineer had pointed out discrepancies between airline’s reported data and DGCA published data. The Director of Statistics at the DGCA – R Savithri – responded with the following statement:

The issue of mismatch between the passenger numbers published under passengers carried as per the ICAO Form ‘A’ for the said months and the passenger numbers published on page 14 of Domestic Traffic Reports had already been noticed by DGCA. ln order to resolve this problem a meeting was held in the month July and it was found that the main reason of the mismatch lies in the fact that the airlines were not including the number of passengers carried on the domestic leg of the international routes while reporting data as per Form ‘A’ of ICAO. While passengers carried published on page 14 of Domestic Traffic Reports includes this number. There is still a small difference in the number of passengers carried shown under the two tabs from the month of August onwards. This difference still persists due to the fact that the passengers carried published on page14 of Domestic Traffic Reports also includes charter or non scheduled flights data which is not a requirement for ICAO Form ‘A’“.

The implications of this is that the market share of various airlines, as calculated and published by the DGCA, is not truly indicative of an airline’s market share. The variations are, admittedly, small.

The director also clearly stated that the hours under ‘Aircraft flown’ correspond to Block Hours. Some airlines, in an attempt to make their aircraft utilization numbers appear good, had stated that those were flight hours. The director clarified that ‘no airline is reporting flight hours instead of block hours’.

The Flying Engineer has also learnt that the statistics for AirAsia India and Air Costa will be available in the statistics publication January 2015 onwards. Air Costa’s data has been included in the Total Traffic Statistics of Scheduled lndian Carriers for the month of October, which was published a few days ago.

How SpiceJet rattled IndiGo’s performance


, , , ,


In an interesting observation, IndiGo’s load factors for Q2 FY2014-15 were found to be consistently below the average domestic load factors for the first time in its entire operational history.

The chart above (click to expand) captures IndiGo’s domestic load factors as reported to the DGCA. Plotting this against the average domestic load factors reveals 13 months out of 98 when the load factors of IndiGo have dipped below the average. Most of these below-average loads were in the first seven months of operations at IndiGo. In the last six financial years – the same years when the airline has been reporting profits – this has occurred just thrice. However, in this financial year alone, it has occurred thrice – in Q2 FY’15.

It what appears a challenge of supremacy, SpiceJet’s market stimulation was able to distort usual market dynamics in the lean season. For instance, September, which is historically – from the last three years – the weakest month for domestic travel as indicated through the lowest load factors – has this year matched the load factors as seen in May 2014. While demand still remained low, the market stimulation drive  created demand, at the expense of yields but to the benefit of RASK – revenue per available seat kilometer.

While SpiceJet brainchilded and executed this, not every airline could follow its footsteps. IndiGo was unable to match SpiceJet’s market stimulation effects, which positively impacted SpiceJet in Q2, and positively impacted other airlines as well. IndiGo’s load factors also rose in sync with the average domestic load factors, but however, underperformed with below average loads.

Indigo, by following what SpiceJet did, salvaged its September. However, its loads in July and August this year were lower than its loads in the same months the previous year. This performance explains in part the Q2 loss of 100Cr incurred at IndiGo.

In short, market stimulation both surprised and helped the blue airline.

India didn’t seem ready for a taste of South East Asian proven low cost strategy. At the same time, IndiGo is ready to make a killing in the months of November and December, lapping up the excess demand due to SpiceJet’s cancellations and planned temporary capacity reduction.

SpiceJet stimulated the market with great effort, only to hand it on a platter to IndiGo in the peak season.

IndiGo posts a loss of INR 100Cr for Q2’15, expands fleet with Tigerair aircraft


, , , ,

IndiGo acft

IndiGo, the airline known to consistently post annual profits, realised a net loss of INR 100Cr in Q2 FY2014-15, covering the months of July, August and September (see footnote). In this period, the airline added a capacity of 15%, compared to Q2’14, but flew 21% more passengers – a total of 5.7 Million.

The airline ended Q2’15 with 10 aircraft more than Q2’14, with the fleet strength standing at 82 as of September 30th 2015. This is an increase of 14% in fleet strength compared to Q2’14. The disproportionately higher increase in capacity compared to fleet increase is explained through a 3% increase in average aircraft utilisation, up to an average of around 11.5hrs in Q2’15.

The increase in passengers in Q2 is partly due to an increase in capacity, and partly due to market stimulation efforts that IndiGo adopted, to keep up with SpiceJet’s initiatives. On April 4th, IndiGo launched fares between INR 1,499 and 2,199 for travel between 1st July 2014 and 30th September 2014. The period of travel was exclusively in Q2’15. This was followed by few other promos, most of which were for travel in September 2015. This resulted in September recording the highest growth in passenger, Year-on-Year, as seen in the graph below.

Cost and Rev Indicators Trend

IndiGo’s capacity increased in the three months of Q2: July, August and September. However, compared to Q2’14, the number of passengers per ASK dropped in July, picked up in August, and shot up in September due to numerous sales that targeted September: historically the weakest month for domestic travel. The airline’s cargo performance recorded a growth in July and September. The increase is partly due to the fact that IndiGo has started carrying mail in addition to freight, since May 2014.

Average flight hours per departure have reduced, indicating on average shorter flights flown by the airline, due to increase in domestic flights. International flights, which comprised 6.6% of all flights in Q2’14, has halved to 3.4% in Q2’15, indicating a strengthening on the domestic front and a reduction on the international front (International flights dropped by almost 40%).

IndiGo load factorsHowever, a lack of vigour and success in market stimulation may have been responsible for the domestic load factors (LF) of the airline to consistently trail the average domestic load factors (see graph above). It may be possible that since IndiGo responded to sales, especially those by stimulation leader SpiceJet, but didn’t initiate them, the efficacy of the sales drives may have been severely limited (a lot of planning and analysis goes into each sale. Responding to others may rob the respondent the time to perform sufficient due diligence). See the comparison between SpiceJet’s and IndiGo’s load factors, below – IndiGo can do a lot better. This could have had an adverse impact on the airline’s RASK (Revenue per available seat kilometre). We consider only the domestic LF, as International forms just 11% of the airline’s deployed capacity.

Interestingly, Rakesh Gangwal and Sanjiv Kapoor have both earned a Master of Business Administration degree from the Wharton School of Business of the University of Pennsylvania. However, a true low cost airline experience (and proven market stimulation strategy) is brought to the table by SpiceJet CCO Kaneswaran Avili. His experience at AirAsia and Tigerair have resulted in the graph below.

A comparison with SpiceJet

6E vs SG lfA comparison with SpiceJet becomes inevitable – the two largest low cost carriers with seemingly different strategies today.

Sources within IndiGo reveal that the airline’s CASK (cost per available seat kilometre) is at around INR 3.6. Compared to its next biggest LCC competitor – SpiceJet’s CASK of INR 4.07, this is INR 47 paise lower. IndiGo lost INR 175 for every passenger flown in Q2.

The CASK at IndiGo seems to be INR 3.6, and the RASK for Q2 may hover around INR 3.4-3.5. This may be higher than SpiceJet’s Q2 RASK of INR 3.26, which was impacted by cancellations and clubbing of flights.

Here are two interesting scenarios:

One – where IndiGo could have stimulated the market like SpiceJet. An aggressive market stimulation may have narrowed the loss for IndiGo, or it could have perhaps reported a profit. The airline could have flown fuller airplanes (in the light of its disappointing load factors) and brought in more revenue, resulting in a higher RASK. SpiceJet in 2014-15 is undoubtedly the Indian market leader in stimulation. IndiGo on the other hand didn’t respond too well to this. It will be interesting if this figures in their next year’s strategy.

Two: Where SpiceJet could have had the CASK that IndiGo enjoys. If SpiceJet’s CASK was INR 3.6 against its INR 4.07, its loss would have narrowed to around just INR 120Cr. Despite its high RASK, SpiceJet was able to salvage the situation to a level where the loss was arrested at INR 310Cr.

If IndiGo starts behaving like a true low cost carrier, perhaps emulating, and not merely responding to the kind of market stimulation that SpiceJet was able to execute, it may become an untouchable. The only way for other airlines to survive will be through differentiation: Vistara as full service, with favourable connections to the world through Singapore; Jet as a full service, with favourable connections to the world through the middle least; and SpiceJet through its well differentiated in flight services and Tier II/III connectivity. AirAsia and GoAir may face the highest heat as they yet do not have an offering that IndiGo doesn’t. While AirAsia may have the backing to grow to a scale to take on IndiGo with scale and lower costs, GoAir will be the loner.

Fleet and network expansion

A strategy that IndiGo seems to be applying is market dominance through excess capacity, frequency and network. The airline, however, is yet to make the most of its ‘overcapacity’.

IndiGo received its 100th aircraft on the 3rd of November, 2014, completing an order that was placed in 2005. With this 100th aircraft, the fleet size rose to 84 (16 A320s were sent off as per the old lease contract that lasted six years).

To fill the gap between November and last next year – when its NEOs from its second, 180 aircraft order placed in 2011, are expected to be delivered, IndiGo has ‘short term’ leased around 12 Airbus A320 aircraft used by Tigerair or its now defunct subsidiary at Indonesia – Tigerair Mandala. The first aircraft, a non-sharklet A320 that flew at Indonesia, joined IndiGo’s fleet on 21st November as VT-IDB.

IndiGo today (26th Nov 14) announced Kozikhode as its newest, 37th destination, which will be connected 2nd January onwards. With this, the airline’s daily flight count will rise to 554.

Footnote: Source of loss: Airline internal sources.

AirAsia India’s performance in Q2


, , , , , ,


AirAsia India completed its first full quarter of operations. The airline, which took off on June 12th 2014, carried 128,089 passengers in 946 flights to 5 destinations, in the Q2 period. It posted a net loss of approximately INR 29 Crore.

The airline had had an interesting performance. To know more about how it performed, and get a glimpse on the outlook of the airline, click here: AirAsia India – Q2FY15 performance and outlook.