One of AirAsia India’s aircraft utilisation has increased to one of the highest in the country.
1 millionth passenger expected to be flown around August 5th.
Typical turn around time: 25 -30 minutes.
The airline, which started operations one year ago on June 12th, 2014, now operates a fleet of 5 aircraft from 2 hubs – Bangalore and Delhi. All of the airline’s present flights from Delhi are no less than 2 hours 20 minutes long. Such long flights ensure that the airplanes spend a larger fraction of the flight in air, resulting in higher aircraft utilisation.
One of the airline’s 5 aircraft rotations flies only 2:30hr flights. This rotation covers a Delhi-Bangalore return, and two Delhi-Goa returns. Together, the utilisation on this pattern totals to 15:10 hrs, which is 50 minutes short of the target that the airline had made public, but one of the highest in the country for all domestic operations.
Average utilisation is however at 12:19 hrs, and the minimum utilisation is 11:00hrs. The average turn-around time at the airline is 36 minutes, a figure that is 16 minutes higher than the target of 20 minutes. However, turn around periods of 25 minutes and 30 minutes account for 70% of all turnarounds. There are no turnarounds of 20 minutes. Refer graph below.
The airline recently added Imphal as a destination, raising the number of destinations to 10. The airline today flies 32 flights a day, deploying 5,760 seats a day and flying around 4,500 passengers daily. Till end May 2015, the airline had flown 716,000 passengers. The airline may fly its 1 millionth passenger on or around the 5th of August 2015.
The airline may add a third Cochin flight in the morning, to provide a well spread out thrice daily service to Cochin from Bangalore. When added, all airplanes will be flying at near maximum utilisation in their rotations. No further growth is possible with the existing fleet.
Aircraft between hubs may be swapped through the night flight I52227 DEL-BLR and I52228 BLR-DEL. Two rotations sync up at the right times to allow for a swap. Until a third Cochin is launched, the airline may use the morning flight I52221 DEL-BLR to swap airplanes.
Ideally, considering that Delhi base has higher aircraft utilisation, the airline may realise a higher fuel saving by deploying two winglet-equipped aircraft at Delhi rather than just one as is the case today. Winglets help realise greater savings on longer flights.
According to the AirAsia Group, AirAsia India, “Overall performance was better than expected with strong loads but is working on keeping costs under check.”
AirAsia India’s journey so far has been interesting. What was a pleasant surprise was the airline reporting its lowest ever net loss in an operating quarter – of INR 19 Cr. This, despite Q4 being a season of low travel demand, and in the same quarter having had numerous delays and cancellations. It was also the first full quarter of three aircraft operations.
AirAsia India claims to have an attractive cost structure. In this piece, we analyse their figures for Q4 FY’15.
In the months of January, February and March 2015, AirAsia India flew 222,502 passengers. No show passengers were 15,055. These two total to 237,557 seats that were sold. No show accounted for 6% of all sold seats. Total seats flown were 300,240, and flown passenger load factor was 74% for the quarter, while seats sold load factor was 79%.
The airline carried a total of 1,620 tonnes of cargo on 1,668 flights, which averaged to 971 kg of cargo per flight – a very good number.
A total of 2,260 hours were flown in the quarter. With three aircraft, this averaged to a daily average aircraft utilisation of 8:22 hrs per aircraft per day. This low average utilisation reflects the cancellations and delays in the quarter due to crew shortage. While the airline was originally scheduled to fly 22 flights a day, the average flights per day in the three months were lower due to the same reason.
12,155 of the airline’s passengers were affected by cancellations and delays of more than two hours in the quarter.
Market share stood at a constant 1% throughout the quarter.
AirAsia India realised an operating expense of INR 95.3Cr in the quarter.
37% of AirAsia India’s costs are due to fuel. The next biggest is staff salaries which make up 25%. Lease comes next at 19%. These three together make up 80% of the airline’s costs. In this period, the airline had three aircraft: VT-ATF/ATB/RED. All three are new enough to have no maintenance issues or checks, and hence maintenance is only 3%.
Average lease cost per aircraft is INR 2 Cr per month.
AirAsia India realised an operating revenue of INR 74.4Cr in the quarter. Of this, 92% was due to passenger ticket sales, while 8% was due to ancillary revenue.
The average fare per passenger (excluding taxes and fees) for the quarter was at INR 2,884. Revenue per available seat kilometre (RASK) was at INR 2.75/seat-km, while Cost per available seat kilometre (CASK) was at INR 3.53/seat-km.
At the same load factor, average fares could have been increased by INR 878 per passenger to operationally break even.
At the same average fares, operational breakeven load factor stood at 103%.
Both figures above assume constant ancillary revenue. Ancillary revenue per flight was INR 35,320.
Average operating cost per block hour was INR 421,311 (US$ 6,600).
Average cost per kilometer flown was INR 635/km.
AirAsia’s losses are on a steady decrease. With five aircraft operating in Q1’16, better routes, and the strong travel demand, the airline may spring a surprise with its Q1 performance.
A sixth aircraft is expected to join the fleet in June. Q2’16 – a lean season- will be an interesting quarter to watch, with a mild possibility of a break even. The airline may either break even or post profits in Q3’16.
The airline added Imphal to its booking engine on 28th May 2015.
SpiceJet goes loud on some developments, and silent on the rest. What SpiceJet has done in the last few weeks is to unbundle as much of its services as possible, to find multiple ways in which the airline can make money.
Tony Fernandes (Group CEO, AirAsia) and Mittu Chandilya (CEO, AirAsia India), have been fighting for unbundling of services for long. In fact, when AirAsia launched a year ago, it charged passengers for check in baggage. DGCA interference, reportedly driven by pressure from other airlines, ensured that the airline provided a minimum free check in baggage service: 15kgs per passenger. Tony Fernandes regarded this move undemocratic. He had a point: The 15kgs of baggage did not come free, but was included in the airfare, unknown to the passenger. This only meant that every passenger was forced to pay for a baggage service that he or she may not opt for. Business travellers usually have no check-in baggage.
Air Transport Circular 1 of 2015, dated 24th March, 2015, seems to be an outcome of the constant requests AirAsia India has made to the ministry. The DGCA now allows airlines to charge for all seats that are pre-booked. Previously, this was limited to just 25% of the seats and excluded the middle row seats. The new circular also talks about “Check-in baggage charges” being unbundled. Although this was present in the previous circular, upon which AirAsia India acted, DGCA had the final say. Things seem to have now changed.
SpiceJet is the first airline to have stealthily implemented the circular to the fullest. All the seats on SpiceJet’s aircraft – Bombardier Q400 & Boeing 737, are chargeable when pre-booked, which wasn’t the case earlier.
Every Seat Pays
On the Boeing 737-800s (The airline flies 16 B737-800s and 1 737-900, besides three wet-leased Boeing 737-800s which have no SpiceMax extra legroom rows), the middle seats on rows 6 to 13 are charges at INR 100. The window and aisle seats are charges INR 300. Seats on the first five rows are charged INR 1,000. Emergency exit rows are charged INR 600. From rows 16 to 31, middle seats are charges INR 50, while the aisle and window seats are charged INR 100.
This allows SpiceJet to potentially generate an additional INR 56,400 per Boeing flight. Assuming a flight with 80% load factor has 25% of its passengers pre-booking their seats, this is INR 11,300 per flight. With this assumption, and a maximum of 129 Boeing flights in a day, SpiceJet may realise around INR 14,50,000 revenue per day from selling seats on Boeings alone.
On the Q400s, (The airline flies 12 -13), there are no middle seats. Row 1 (two seats) and Row 2 (right two seats) are SpiceMax seats, charged at INR 500. All other seats upto and including row 6 are charged INR 200. The rest of the seats in the cabin are charged INR 100.
This allows SpiceJet to potentially generate an additional INR 11,200 per Q400 flight. Assuming a flight with 90% load factor has 25% of its passengers pre-booking their seats, this is INR 2,520 per flight. With this assumption, and a maximum of 162 Q400 flights in a day, SpiceJet may realise around INR 4,10,000 revenue per day from selling seats on Q400s alone.
Together, the airline may, on average, generate 18,66,000 per day from selling seats. Over a month, this will be sufficient to pay almost two Boeing 737s’ dry lease.
No free check-in baggage
With SpiceJet’s “#Travel Light, Save More” offer, announced on April 27th, SpiceJet offered 1,50,000 seats on sale. The tickets for these seats were on the condition that a passenger did not travel with a check-in baggage. The offer was extended, adding an additional 100,000 seats. In total, SpiceJet offered 250,000 seats for sale with high confidence that these passengers would not have check in baggage.
With 15Kg per passenger not occupying the cargo hold, the airline has saved 3,750 tonnes of cargo hold weight. At an assumed average cargo rate of INR 20,000 per tonne (we’ve earlier determined this average to be slightly higher), this allows the airline to ‘sell’ INR 7.5 Crore worth cargo space/weight to its cargo handler, Sovika.
If however any passenger chooses to check in their baggage on these tickets, the airline’s T&C requires a flat fee of INR 750 to be paid for upto 15kg. This is the first example in India where a passenger is not granted complimentary 15kg check in service, but has to pay for “any” check in baggage.
This may be SpiceJet’s move in evaluating demand for such tickets. Perhaps, if proved successful, the airline may implement a policy of paying for every check-in baggage.
Other unbundled services
SpiceJet also charges for priority check in, Meal (hot meals – 737s and cold sandwiches – Q400s), excess baggage slabs, a ‘Meet and Assist’ service, and “SpiceAssurance”.
Priority Check-in charges a passenger INR 200. Hot Meals on Boeings are charged at INR 315 when pre-booked and INR 350 when bought on board. On Q400s, pre-booked Sandwiches are available for INR 200, and INR 220 when bought on board (the illustration for the Q400 meal is misleading as it shows steam coming from the plate that has the sandwich, which is not true. The sandwiches are cold). The SpiceAssist service comes at INR 500 per passenger (assistance from the SpiceJet staff at the airport).
All these services are ‘opt-in’ services, as mandated in the DGCA circular (a passenger needs to check the box associated with the service. By default, there must be no service pre-selected). However one service, the SpiceAssurance which charges INR 35 per passenger is pre-checked, which may not be the right thing to do. By paying INR 35, SpiceJet offers passengers a voucher of INR 500 is the flight is delayed by 1 to 2 hours, and INR 1000 if beyond 2 hours. This also offers limited baggage loss reimbursement.
This, in our personal opinion, is a poor move. Firstly, this is an opt out service. Secondly, a passenger has to pay for his own compensation for a delayed or cancelled flight. Previously, the airline offered this compensation for free, more. Third, the compensation is in the form of a voucher, which forces the passenger to book on SpiceJet to avail the compensation as a deductible from the next travel fare. Fourth – the voucher is valid for 90 days only.
Passengers who miss this INR 35 on the SpiceJet website (not offered through OTAs) will together contribute INR 19,30,000 to the airline, per month (assuming 10% bookings are through the website, and all these passengers miss or choose to ignore the INR 35 charge).
For a limited period, opting for a SpiceMax seats entitles a passenger to a complimentary meal. However, the airline allows for a meal to be chosen as well. This means that a passenger pays for a meal that he is entitled to. This seems to be a glitch in the system.
These small little things add up to big money! SpiceJet, we hope, corrects the ‘hot sandwich’ and SpiceAssurance.
Moving towards absolute no-frills
SpiceJet is the first to act like a ‘true LCC’ in India. IndiGo, Go Air, and surprisingly – AirAsia India, are yet to follow with seat selection and no-free check in baggage. On one hand, these moves pitch SpiceJet as a LCC (we now don’t believe in the term, we prefer no frills carrier), and on the other hand, the SpiceMax seats with good legroom and complimentary meals lend it a different image: of good premium economy luxury. Same brand, two images. Does it lead to brand confusion? We think so.
AirAsia India announced today Delhi as its second hub, after Bangalore. Delhi will also serve as a base for the airline, while Bangalore will remain the home base.
Assuming that the airline will start flying between Bangalore and Delhi, the airline will for the first time begin flying on a Category I (Cat I) route, as defined by the prevalent route dispersal guidelines (RDG). Flying on a Cat I route will now oblige the airline to deploy a minimum percentage of the Cat I route capacity on Category II, IIA and III routes. Capacity is measured on an available seat kilometer (ASKM) basis. Every 180 seat flight between Bangalore and Delhi adds approximately 3,42,000 ASKM.
This makes the choice of Delhi as a base very important.
The importance of Delhi
Category II (Cat II) routes are routes which were traditionally looked upon as ‘loss making’ routes. These are routes that connect the mainland to the ‘neglected’ north-east, far north, and the islands that make up Lakshadweep and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands. (Please note that ‘neglected’ is a harsh word, but that’s how the ministry looks upon these regions as far as air connectivity is concerned). 10% of the Cat I capacity must be deployed on Cat II routes (To be soon revised to 20%). Had AirAsia India flown to Port Blair from Chennai or Bangalore, this requirement could have easily been met. AirAsia’s Airbus A320s cannot operate into and out of Agatti’s short strip.
Category IIA (Cat IIA) routes are routes which connect airports within a ‘neglected’ region. Examples are Jammu-Srinagar, and Guwahati-Bagdogra. Unfortunately, the southern portion of India – where AirAsia India is based- has no such Cat IIA routes. 1% of the Cat I capacity must be deployed on Cat II routes (to be soon revised to 1.5%)
To cater to a Cat I route and Cat II & IIA routes, the northern part of India is a wiser hub.
All the routes AirAsia India flies today are Cat III routes, as per prevalent RDGs.
Establish the route
By having a hub at Delhi, AirAsia India can fly early morning flights from Delhi to Bangalore, which can be mirrored by early morning Bangalore – Delhi flights. Similar flights from either destinations may be flown in the evening. This requires one A320 to be based at Delhi, to start with.
If such a strategy is followed, each aircraft will fly a minimum of 2 flights on the Bangalore – Delhi/vv route. Each flight is planned for 2:45 hrs, which will total upto 5:30 hours of utilisation per aircraft on this city-pair, leaving a maximum of around 7hrs of utilisation for other stations.
We feel that the airline may fly a 3x Bangalore-Delhi one way, per day, of which at least 2 shall be direct flights.
Flights to Delhi are not expected before May 2015, and perhaps not before mid-May 2015.
Deploy Cat II & IIA capacity.
Flights between Delhi-Jammu-Srinagar or Delhi-Guwahati-Bagdogra or Delhi-Guwahati-Agartala may be flown for Cat II and Cat IIA capacity. Delhi-Jammu-Srinagar seems to be the most likely set of cities to be flown first.
If the airline is innovative enough, it may make the most of its patterns to fly underserved routes. I am obliged to not exercise my creativity in suggesting routes.
Open Vishakhapatnam as a destination
AirAsia India presently flies three aircraft, and one of the three patterns flown everyday has a poor utilisation of just 7:50 hrs (see above). It is in this pattern – the third pattern, that two flights to Vishakhapatnam may easily fit in (as published in the DGCA’s Summer Schedule), with perhaps slight schedule changes.
The necessity – 5th aircraft
Opening the Delhi-Bangalore route will require two additional aircraft: one based at Bangalore, and the other at Delhi.
Further, as per CAR Sec 3 AT series C Part II, operators “will be given one year’s time from the date of securing operator’s permit, to have the fleet size of five aircraft”. AirAsia India secured its AOP on May 7th, 2015, and a 5th aircraft is necessary to meet regulatory requirements.
Today, at around 11:00hrs IST, AirAsia India’s 5th aircraft flew into Hyderabad from Kuala Lumpur. The aircraft is a used Malaysia AirAsia A320-216 (9M-AHU) without winglets, and is around 5.5 years old. The aircraft is AirAsia India’s second, non-winglet A320, after the 7 year old A320 which was unveiled to the public on 21st March in the JRD Tata livery (see image on top). Both aircraft are yet to start flying commercially for the airline.
The first three aircraft have winglets. If the airline is prudent with its fuel burn, only the winglet equipped aircraft (VT-RED/ATF/ATB) will be deployed on the BLR-DEL vv route.
Thank you to @ATCBLR on Twitter for posting the 5th aircraft’s arrival.
Marked shift in strategy
Last year, Mittu Chandilya, CEO AirAsia India had announced Goa as the second hub, with the induction of the 4th aircraft. He had also mentioned that the airline will keep off Delhi and Mumbai.
The airline last operated flights on the Bangalore – Chennai route on 31st March 2015.
Air Pegasus (ICAO: PPL, IATA: OP) is the newest airline in the Indian airspace, and the second active airline to be headquartered in of Bangalore, after AirAsia India. The airline is a regional scheduled operator, and plans to fly a fleet of only ATR 72 aircraft.
The airline received its first ATR 72-500 on September 27th, 2014. The aircraft, with a serial number MSN 699, formerly flew for the now defunt Kingfisher airlines as VT-KAA. The aircraft, back in India to fly for Air Pegasus, is registered VT-APA.
Six months after receiving its first and only aircraft, Air Pegasus was granted its Air Operator’s Permit (AOP) by the DGCA. The airline officially ‘launched’ on April 1st, and today – April 4th 2015 – has opened for bookings.
The second aircraft, another ex-Kingfisher ATR 72, is expected by the end of April 2015. The airline plans a third ATR 72 this year, details of which are not available.
The airline is India’s first all-ATR72 operator.
The airline plans to start operations on 12th April, 2015, with the inaugural flight from Bangalore to Hubli and back. The next day, the Bangalore – Trivandrum – Bangalore route will be inaugurated. These two stations are expected to be followed by Kochi, Chennai, Tuticorin, Belgaum, Rajmundry, Pondicherry and Madurai. Some of these stations witness good demand. However, it must be remembered that demand is a function of pricing.
Average turnaround time at the airline is 25 minutes, and the total aircraft utilization with these two sectors is 5:30 hrs. We expect the utilization to touch close to 10 hours per aircraft per day.
The airline opened for sales today, 4th April, 2015. The open for sales could perhaps have been supported by the presence of newspaper advertisements, media reports, tweets on the official Twitter account, or posts on the Facebook page. These were missing perhaps missing due to the long holiday weekend. It is learnt that the airline will launch a media campaign very soon.
Online Travel Agencies (OTA) are yet to list the airline in their searches, and may soon happen.
On the Bangalore- Hubli sector, a fully loaded ATR72 will consume around 875 litres of ATF as trip fuel, assuming a cruise at FL220. This translates to around INR 38,000 as fuel cost, including the discounted sales tax of 4% applicable to aircraft with less than 80 seats flying for a regional airline. The estimated operating cost, taking into account the low aircraft utilisation and few other factors, is at around INR 1,80,000 per flight, bringing the cost per seat on this sector to around INR 2,200, and CASK to INR 5.62.
On the Bangalore- Trivandrum sector, a fully loaded ATR72 will consume around 1,125 litres of ATF as trip fuel, assuming a cruise at FL220. This translates to around INR 49,000 as fuel cost. The operating cost is estimated at around INR 2,00,000 per flight, bringing the cost per seat on this sector to around INR 3,000, and CASK to INR 5.45.
Ticket prices on both sectors fall in eight buckets. The corresponding all inclusive fares are also shown. (deleted upon request)
Depending on the way revenue management at the airline is played with, the airline may comfortably break even with load factors of 70% +/- 10%. However, a lot of this depends on the actual demand by last minute travellers, when ticket prices usually sit in the higher buckets. This high yield D0-D7 demand is also driven by the service reputation that the airline builds over time.
The airline enjoys a monopoly on the Bangalore- Hubli route, and this will do the airline good. Air Pegasus competes with IndiGo, Air India, and Jet Airways on the Bangalore – Trivandrum sector. The airline will face certain stiff competition from IndiGo which prices its fares as low as INR 1,964.
We wish the airline all the very best in its operations.
In the quarter ending December 2014 (Q3FY’15 – India), AirAsia India, an associate of AirAsia due to the latter’s share of 49% in the India venture, posted a net loss of INR 21.7 Crores.
In the same quarter, spanning the months of October, November, and December 2014, the airline faced a significant challenge. The airline was faced with a shortage of senior cabin crew, effects of which were largely seen in November and December – very significant delays of many flights (up to 5 hours and more) and the cancellation of some. The airline was forced to play around with its schedules to match the flight duty time limitations (FDTL) of its senior crew, which resulted in the delays and cancellations.
Cancellations at AirAsia India rose from 0% in October to 2.65% in November, and dipped to 1.92% in December. In the quarter, a total of 4,019 passengers were affected by delays more than two hours (2% of the passengers carried in the quarter), and 513 passengers were affected by cancellations (0.2% of the passengers carried in the quarter), as per DGCA data.
In the quarter, the airline flew a total of 201,000 passengers, out of 253,852 seats, resulting in a load factor of 79.2% for the quarter. In the month of November, passengers carried dropped to 61,000, down 5,000 passengers compared to October, while load factors increased to 79.8%, up from 76.2% in October, perhaps indicating that the loads in November were driven by servicing affected passengers.
December is a month of high domestic travel demand. December 2014 was AirAsia India’s first month of operations in a high demand season, which resulted in domestic load factors rising to 81.5% – its highest since start of operations. Considering that the target customers for AirAsia India are leisure travellers, AirAisa India was expected to have recorded higher load factors. This figure was the lowest among all airlines in India for the month, either due to the airline’s limited network or an image that was impacted by the high number of cancellations and delays that continued into December.
AirAsia India ended the quarter with a fleet of 3 Airbus A320 aircraft, of which two are used (from AirAsia Malaysia), and one is new (directly received from Toulouse). The third aircraft entered commercial operations on 18th December 2014.
In the quarter, the airline added only one destination to its network – Pune, on the 17th of December 2014, while doubling the frequency on the Bangalore-Jaipur sector, and halving the Bangalore-Chennai frequency. The airline presently services Chennai, Cochin, Goa, Chandigarh, Jaipur, and Pune from Bangalore, and Jaipur from Pune.
As per AirAsia, AirAsia India will receive just three additional aircraft in the year 2015, raising its total fleet to just six (6) aircraft by the close of calendar year 2015. All three aircraft will be used (older) airplanes from AirAsia Malaysia. In the same year, the group will receive only five new airplanes from Airbus, of which one will be for Malaysia AirAsia, two for Phillipines AirAsia, and two for Japan AirAsia which presently has no aircraft.
AirAsia India is forecasted to have a load factor of 81% in Q4 FY’15 (Q1 CY 2015). This may seem difficult considering the airline is entering another lean season, and its past performance in both lean and peak seasons hasn’t been encouraging enough to support this forecast.
However, one tactic that the group may resort to is to feed traffic from Malaysia AirAsia and Thai AirAsia into Bangalore, which can then be picked up by AirAsia India to offer more connections in India, such as Jaipur, Chandigarh and Goa to passengers of the other two AirAsia associate airlines.
Says Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO, “For a new airline, the AirAsia brand is strong in India and the load factor of 80% recorded in 4Q14 speaks for itself. Looking at the growth potential there, an additional aircraft was added in India during the reported quarter hence it ended the year with a total of 3 aircraft. Though the associate, due to the local regulations, is only allowed to operate domestic routes in its first five years of operations, AAI has the advantage of getting traffic feed from MAA and TAA which also flies in to AAI’s hub in Bangalore. This differentiates AAI from its competitors."
AirAsia’s A320NEOs will be delivered only at the end of calendar year 2016. Further, in 2015 and the next few years, the group will not be taking in large number of aircraft every year like before, in an attempt to preserve cash.
For the quarter, Thai AirAsia was the only associate to record a net profit. Indonesia AirAsia, Malaysia AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, AirAsia Japan and AirAsia India recorded net losses. Indonesia AirAsia and Malaysia AirAsia however recorded operating profits.
Air Costa, the Vijayawada based regional airline, has realized an operating profit in the month of December, 2014.
ATF sales tax at Andhra Pradesh, which was reduced to 1% from 16%, has positively benefited the airline. Three out of four aircraft rotation patterns have at least one stop at Andhra Pradesh, which allows the airline to tanker fuel out of the state. The Embraer E170s, which used to pay a flat sales tax of 4%, now pay only 1% within the state and 4% outside the state.
The airline’s tie up with Sovika Group to carry a target of 500 tonnes of cargo a month in the unused belly space of the aircraft has also contributed to the airline’s revenue stream via ancillary revenues starting December. It is estimated that the airline makes around INR 1 Cr per month for 500 tonnes of cargo.
The airline flies 34 flights a day between 15 city pairs, connecting 9 stations with four Embraer E Jets – two 112 seat E190s and two 67 seat E 170s. Of these, the airline enjoys a monopoly on three pairs: Jaipur-Chennai, Tirupati – Vishakhapatnam, and Vijayawada-Vishakhapatnam sectors, and a duopoly on five others. On the other sectors, the airline enjoys competition from just two other airlines. Two out of 15 routes are Tier II – Tier II city pairs, while just two city pairs are Tier I – Tier I. The other 11 are Tier I – Tier II city pairs : the market that has the highest growth potential. The airline stopped flying the Bangalore- Chennai sector – a short, crowded sector that is not suited for a 100 seat regional jet in the light of stiff competition especially from economical 70-80 turboprops and higher capacity Boeing 737-800 and A320 aircraft. While the turboprop is the right sized aircraft with favorable economics, for jet aircraft, this sector is unviable. However, deploying a Boeing 737-800 or an A320 on this sector can be commercially managed through low airfares that fill up an entire aircraft to break even. The E190 cannot compete due to its very significantly higher operating costs than an turboprop and its higher cost per seat compared to a mainline jet, on such a short, already crowded sector.
The network has been restructured to eliminate unprofitable routes and unfavourable patterns.
It is also possible that the disruptions faced by SpiceJet across its network could have benefited Air Costa. The airline shares two duopoly sectors with SpiceJet and three other sectors with SpiceJet and other airlines.
Another important factor that would have contributed to Air Costa’s profit is the high demand for domestic air travel in December. Tirupati, for instance, is preferred by many in December due to the favorable weather and the coincidence with the holiday season.
When compared to the 2014 Summer schedule, the airline has stopped flying five city pairs and added four city pairs. The most notable change has been in the drop in the number of Chennai connections. Connections to Chennai from Coimbatore, Bangalore, and Vijayawada have been snapped. Madurai as a destination was dropped soon after opening. The connection between Hyderabad and Jaipur has been snapped. The frequency of flights between Hyderabad and Chennai have dropped from 3 flights a day each way to just one.
Tirupati was opened towards late September. Direct Hyderabad – Coimbatore, Hyderabad – Tirupati, and Tirupati – Visakhapatnam sectors were commenced, and the Hyderabad – Vijayawada frequency was doubled.
Air Costa has stopped its three / four way routes : Bangalore – Jaipur – Hyderabad – Chennai (and the return), and Bangalore – Ahmedabad – Chennai (and the return), replacing these with direct Bangalore – Jaipur-Bangalore, Bangalore – Ahmedabad – Bangalore, Chennai – Ahmedabad – Chennai, and Chennai – Jaipur – Chennai routes.
Flights & Utilisation
From 40 planned flights a day in summer ’14, the airline today flies 34 flights a day, dropping routes that were unprofitable.
Compared to the Summer schedule, the aircraft utilisation has dropped, from an average of 12:53hrs to 11:42hrs per aircraft, a drop of 1:11hrs. E170s, which were planned for 11:00 -11:25hrs in summer presently are utilised to 9:45hrs-10:00hrs a day. E190s, which were planned for 14:30hrs -14:40hrs a day in summer today fly for 12:50hrs – 14:15hrs.
Chennai, from 10 departures a day as per the summer’14 schedule, has reduced to just three. Bangalore and Hyderabad have the highest departures – seven a day. It may be prudent for Air Costa to shift its E190 aircraft base from Chennai to Bangalore both in light of its importance and the benefits handed out by Bangalore Kempegowda International Airport for operators who station 50% or more of their fleet in the city and fly more than a million passengers annually through the airport.
Presently, Air Costa flies a total of about 26,000 passengers into and out of Bangalore, every month. The E190s contribute to about 17,500 passengers per aircraft per month. Should 4 additional E190s be stationed at Bangalore to fly point to point routes out of Bangalore, then the airline will cross 1 million passengers movements per annum at Bangalore.
According to earlier plans, the airline was to have received the 5th E190 (7th aircraft) in December 2014.
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!”.
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.
On 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.
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, 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.
Air 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, 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, 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.
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.
AirAsia India, in its winter schedule filed and approved with/by the DGCA, has listed a slew of new flights, most notably the doubling of its Jaipur (JAI) and Chandigarh (IXC) frequency, introducing a double Vishakhapatnam (VTZ) frequency, and adding another frequency to Cochin (COK). The new schedule will require four patterns (four aircraft), but the fourth pattern is evidently incomplete. AirAsia India is expected to announce further new routes soon – an announcement delayed by at least two weeks now.
In the new pattern, the airline seems to focus on a mix of business and casual travellers. Early morning / morning departures to & from Goa, Cochin, Jaipur and Vishakhapatnam, followed by evening/late evening returns from these destinations. The Bangalore-Chandigarh sector’s plan is baffling (though the route records very good loads), as it seems to deploy two flights within two and a half (2:30) hrs of each other. The airline does this with its late morning Cochin flight, as well. The airline still seems to have an unfavorable slot for Chennai.
The aircraft utilization in the third pattern will touch an all time high of 14 hours.
The airline, to fly the new pattern (if it still holds – most of the airline’s forward looking statements haven’t fructified) will need two additional aircraft by November 17th. This fleet of four aircraft will require between 16 – 20 sets of crew, which at the highest requirement is 20 Captains, 20 First Officers, 20 Senior Flight Attendants, and 60 Flight Attendants (which may also include trainee cabin crew). The airline will need to go on a hiring spree for experienced cabin crew. Since the start of operations, the airline has held 11 walk-in cabin crew recruitment drives (including one tomorrow and another on Thursday), targeted mostly at fresh (inexperienced) applicants.
The airline was supposed to have received A320 MSN 6262, registered as VT-ATD, from Toulouse, but the aircraft was re-registered to 9M-AJT and delivered to Malaysia AirAsia. It is very likely that the next two Airbus A320 aircraft will be used airplanes from the AirAsia group. The question is not which, but when.
Bangalore based Air Pegasus today received its first aircraft – an ATR 72-500, MSN 699 – from its lessor, after successfully completing its acceptance flight. Minor glitches in the aircraft’s auto flight system had delayed the ferry.
The aircraft, sporting an all white body (much like Vistara’s first Airbus A320), was ferried from its storage at Kuala Lumpur, and flown to Bangalore via Dhaka, where it had a tech stop. The aircraft departed Kuala Lumpur at around 0340Z/0910IST, and landed at Dhaka at 1020Z/1550IST, after flying for almost 6hrs40min. The aircraft departed almost an hour later at 1120Z/1650IST, and landed at Kempegowda International Airport (Bangalore) at 1530Z/2100IST, after 4hrs10minutes.
The first leg – Kuala Lumpur (WMKK), Malaysia to Dhaka (VGHS) was 1,550NM long, and the second leg- Dhaka(VGHA) to Bangalore (VOBL), India was 1,047NM long. Cruise was at flight level (FL) 240. Below is the routing.
The aircraft was piloted by two captains- Sipsas and Brilakis – the only two expats on contract with Air Pegasus, as of today. The aircraft ferried flew in with a registration M-ABFC, and was formerly operating for Kingfisher Airlines with the registration VT-KAA. The aircraft went into storage in the April of 2012, and has not operated since.
Air Pegasus becomes ATR’s newest operator in the country.
The communication between air traffic controllers and pilots is key to efficiency and safety in the air traffic system (ATS). Air Traffic Control Officers (ATCOs) are looked upon as managers : managing the flow of air traffic, and relaying crisp, and necessary messages to pilots.
Effective management is only possible when there is a deep understanding of the technicalities of the lower levels. A manager is always at a ‘higher level’, and decisions are based on a ‘lower levels’ of understanding. Effective management of air traffic is possible only when an ATCO understands, and not just communicates to, a pilot.
Accidents in the past have been due to gaps in understanding between ATCOs and pilots. Fuel burn and on time performance (OTP) are heavily dependent on the decisions taken by an ATCO. Once ATCOs understand aircraft, and aircraft performance, and fuel burn for every extra nautical mile and minute they make airplanes fly, things fall better in place: airline economics, better airport efficiency, and enhanced flight safety.
Since 2011, Air Pegasus has been in the news. The coverage has damaged the airline’s reputation- the managing director talked of starting operations twice, and both timelines were missed with not a single aircraft in India that was to operate under the Pegasus brand.
The airline was granted its NOC late 2011, and since then renewed twice. Most, including the DGCA, haven’t taken Air Pegasus seriously. They’d written it off as another airline that will not take to the skies.
But all that has changed. The MD and CEO of the airline, Mr. Shyson Thomas, firmly believes its his last renewal of the NOC, for he is confident of getting his AOP in September. This time around though, it’s for real.
The airline will today (Monday, 4th August) sign on the dotted line a letter of intent with a lessor, who will supply the Bangalore based Air Pegasus Private Limited two eight-and-a-half year old ATR 72-500 aircraft. The airline has two expat pilots on its rolls, one of whom landed in Bangalore in the wee hours of Saturday morning from Athens, Greece, to attend an Aviation Security (AV-SEC) training. There are six Indian captains, and eleven first officers ready to fly the first two aircraft, and twenty all-female cabin crew ready to man it.
For the first time in the history of the yet-to-become airline, lessors have reportedly been sending the airline emails, rather than the other way around. There seems to be confidence from overseas, from the likes of people who have burnt their fingers leasing aircraft to Paramount and Kingfisher. It is too early to see pictures of an ATR in the airline’s paint scheme, but once the signatures are done, two ex-Kingfisher/Deccan aircraft will be ready to start another chapter in the history of Indian aviation: an all ATR, pure-regional airline based out of Bangalore, to cater specifically to the south- a region attractive for it includes three Tier I cities and many promising, and economically important Tier II cities.
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.