Today, India, for the size that it is, has only four airlines that fly international: Full service carriers (FSCs) Air India and its subsidiaries, and Jet Airways, and Low cost carriers (LCCs) SpiceJet and IndiGo. This is in contrast to the 10 airlines that operate domestic scheduled services in India, today. While Indian carriers flew 81 million domestic passengers in calendar year 2015 (CY2015), Indian carriers flew only 18 million passengers in the same period.
Only two airlines/airline groups operate short, medium and long haul international services: Air India and Jet Airways. Both airlines have diverse fleets: from short haul domestic ATR 72 turboprops to long haul international Boeing 777s. The LCCs in contrast have narrowbody jets that can cater only to short haul international services.
Due to the limitations of fleet and perhaps the lack of commercially attractive international destinations, LCCs IndiGo and SpiceJet deployed only 4.8% and 9.5% of their total flights on international, in CY2015. In contrast, Jet Airways (Including operations from the Jetlite AOP) deployed 22.1%, while Air India (Including Air India Express and Air India Regional (Alliance)) deployed 32.7% of its total flights on international. Air India and Jet Airways together contribute to 84.5% of all international departures by Indian carriers, while IndiGo and SpiceJet contribute to just 8.8% and 6.8% respectively.
This statistic shows IndiGo and SpiceJet are very small players in the international front, serving destinations at neighbouring countries. IndiGo operates only to five international destinations: Kathmandu (Nepal), Muscat (Oman), Singapore (Singapore), Bangkok (Thailand), and Dubai (U.A.E.), while SpiceJet operates only to six international destinations: Bangkok (Thailand), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Dubai (U.A.E), Kabul (Afghanistan), Male (Maldives), and Muscat (Oman).
Air India and Jet Airways started operations before the 5/20 rule was instated in the year 2005. IndiGo and SpiceJet started operations after the 5/20 rule was introduced. The 5/20 rule requires airlines to operate domestic services for a minimum period of five years, after which it can fly international only if the airline has a fleet size of 20 or greater.
Air India Express was the only airline to start immediate international operations (although on an AOP different from Air India) after the 5/20 rule was introduced. The first flight of the airline was an international flight.
Neither IndiGo nor SpiceJet fought the 5/20 rule at that time as the focus of both airlines then, as it is today, is to tap the potential of the domestic market. SpiceJet started international operations in October 2010, while IndiGo commenced international operations in September 2011. Despite both LCCs having started international operations nearly five years ago, when the scale of domestic operations were smaller, both airlines chose not to focus on international operations. (See IndiGo’s fleet induction, here) Both airlines always had the option of inducting larger aircraft to serve destinations beyond the surrounding Asian and Middle East countries. But such is not their business model.
As a result, the only Indian carriers to majorly serve international are Air India and Jet Airways, both of which were not ‘victims’ of the 5/20 rule, whereas IndiGo and SpiceJet, which chose to focus on domestic even though they started international operations five years ago, are ‘victims’ of the 5/20 rule, strongly opposing the removal of the a rule that means nothing, and does not impact either airline..
Go Air started operations in the year 2005, but chose not to increase its fleet beyond 19 aircraft. It deferred its 20th aircraft, which was readied by Airbus. As a result, the airline does not fly international, and seems to have no issues remaining a domestic player. Yet, the airline opposes the removal of the 5/20 rule, though it chose not to operate international.
In the quarter ending 31st December 2015, a total of 12.6 million international passengers were carried by both Indian and international airlines. Of that number, Indian carriers flew just 4.5 million passengers, or just 36% of the total traffic.
India is underutilising its bilaterals, due to restrictions placed by rules such as the 5/20. For the purpose of this case, and for want of time, we consider only three international destinations: Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur.
As of late February 2016, there are three airlines from Singapore that operate to 13 destinations in India. Singapore Airlines, Tiger Airways and Silk Air together operate 134 flights per week to India, from Singapore, and an equal number of return flights. Together, the airlines deploy 30,517 seats per week between Singapore and India, in each direction, using a variety of aircraft: Airbus A319s, A320s, Boeing 737-800s, Airbus A330s, Boeing 777-200s, 777-300s, and Airbus A380.
In contrast, three Indian airlines (four if you count Air India Express separately) connect Singapore to only four destinations in India. Air India, Air India Express, Jet Airways and IndiGo together operate 63 flights per week between the two countries. Together, the airlines deploy just 13,244 seats per week between Singapore and India, in each direction, using Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-800s, Airbus A330-300s, and Boeing 787-8s.
Thai Airways, Thai AirAsia, and Bangkok Airways operate from Bangkok to eight destinations in India, flying 73 flights and deploying 19,497 seats per week, Using Airbus A320s, Boeing 747s, 777-200s, 777-300s, Airbus A330-300s, and Boeing 787-8s.
In contrast, SpiceJet, IndiGo, Jet Airways and Air India together operate 62 flights, deploying 12,474 seats per week, from four Indian destinations to Bangkok, using Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-800s, 737-900s, and Boeing 787-8s.
From Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia Berhad, AirAsia X, Malindo, and Malaysian Airlines operate 180 flights to 12 Indian destinations, deploying 32,903 seats per week between Malaysia and India, using Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-800s, 737-900s, and Airbus A330-300s.
In contrast, only Air India Express operates to Kuala Lumpur, connecting only Chennai to the Malaysian capital with 4 weekly flights and deploying 744 seats per week.
While not all destinations are commercially viable, there is a huge mismatch between the capacity deployed by foreign carriers, and the capacity deployed by Indian carriers, on the same set of routes. Infact, the superior connectivity offered by foreign carriers is not matched by Indian carriers, leaving a large scope for more Indian carriers to boost the Indian economy while also providing international passengers seamless domestic connectivity.
The 5/20 rule must go if India should see it’s own airlines connect India with the rest of the world.
What the FIA won’t tell you
The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), have something against the airlines of the Father of Indian Aviation (FIA), Late JRD Tata. The Tata’s have already done enough to promote connectivity within India: TATA airlines was renamed Air India.
The FIA (Federation) is shaken by the prospects of airlines such as Vistara and AirAsia India. The goal of the FIA is to restrict the operations of such airlines to within India, so that players like the market leader can use its low cost base to lower fares on every route such airlines fly, and bleed the airlines dry. Starting with the smallest and the least capitalised airlines, airlines will knock off the Indian scene, one by one, leaving only a few to operate in India, with the market player enjoying a huge monopoly in setting fares. At that point in time, India will suffer, with neither good international connectivity, nor with strong domestic competition nor worthy alternatives.
While the FIA blames consultancy firm KPMG of auditing Singapore Airlines and consulting for the government, it remains silent on consultancy firm CAPA.
CAPA India, in its Aviation Outlook 2016, stated, “Despite repeated statements by the Minister that there is no logic to the 5/20 rule and that it should be abolished, the discriminatory regulation still remains in place”.
Guess which consultancy firm’s services was sought for IndiGo’s Red Herring Prospectus? CAPA India.
Brussels in Belgium presently serves as a ‘scissor hub’ for Jet Airways, for which it dedicates all four of its Airbus A330-330s configured with 34 Première and 259 Economy seats, totalling 293 seats per aircraft. These four A330s, registered VT-JWR/S/T/U, fly to only 4 cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Newark, and Toronto, through the scissor hub at Brussels. No aircraft are parked, no crew are stationed, but the role of Brussels is to allow passengers from Delhi and Mumbai to fly onward to either Newark or Toronto, and vice-versa, while also catering to passengers originating at, or destined for Brussels.
The beauty of this hub is how all four A330-300s from Newark (9W227), Mumbai (9W228), Toronto (9W229), and Delhi (9W230) arrive at Brussels in just a 5 minute window, between 7:45 – 7:50 in the morning, everyday, only to leave 2:30 hours later, together. The four aircraft arrive and depart together.
Passengers from Mumbai transit through Brussels onward to Newark, and vice-versa. Passengers from Delhi transit through Brussels onward to Toronto, and vice-versa. But passengers from Mumbai will need to be transferred at Brussels to the other aircraft to continue to Toronto, and vice-versa. Passengers from Delhi will need to be transferred at Brussels to the other aircraft to continue to Newark, and vice-versa.
Everyday, Jet Airways contributes 8 flights to Brussels, flying in a daily capacity of 2,344 seats, or 855,560 seats annually, of which nearly 75% of seats are filled up to contribute to nearly 650,000 passengers originating, departing, transiting, or transferring at Brussels. 33 Brussels based staff are employed, 75% of which are Belgians.
In the calendar year 2014, Brussels had 22 million passengers use its airport, of which nearly 3% was contributed to by Jet Airways, despite the airline contributing to just over 1% of aircraft movements. Further, of the top ten overseas (outside Europe) destinations from Brussels, New York (JFK & Newark/EWR), Mumbai, Toronto, and Delhi feature in the list. While New York is at the first position, Mumbai is at the 6th place, Toronto in the 8th, and Delhi at 10th.
Jet Airways is the only airline to directly connect Brussels to Toronto, Mumbai, and Delhi, and is one of just four airlines to directly connect Brussels to New York / Newark. Jet Airways enjoys nearly 32% market share on the Brussels – New York/Newark direct route, and 100% on the other three routes.
Nearly 30% of the passengers flying to/from the top ten overseas destinations from Brussels are carried by Jet Airways.
Jet Airways’ operations have thus meant much to Brussels.
Jet Airways has cited commercial reasons for shifting the airline’s European gateway to Amsterdam, which is just 160 kilometres to the north of Brussels, effective March 27, 2016. The airline states that a new strategic code share partnership with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Delta Air Lines will significantly enhance connectivity between India – Europe and North America.
However, the airline will be dropping its flights to Newark from its new European gateway, and while all three flights (To Delhi, Mumbai and Toronto) depart Amsterdam at nearly the same time, they will arrive at Amsterdam in a window of 1 hour 15 minutes. Jet Airways will continue to commit the A330-300 to the European gateway, but will free up one aircraft, allowing it to deploy it on a pattern that is not yet publicly known.
In contrast to Brussel’s 22 million passengers in CY2014, Amsterdam’s Schipol airport handled 55 million passengers in the same period, perhaps promising Jet Airways better commercial prospects.
(Picture on top shows an A330-200, the shorter variant of the A330-300 discussed in this piece).
DGCA published data pertaining to an airline’s performance, commonly quoted by the media, such as Load Factors and OTP, is unreliable and misleading.
The data errors can only be recognized in single fleet airlines and/or airlines that have only recently started operations. In both cases, simplicity allows for cross verification of data.
Investigation into the data errors was suggested by a senior officer of a full service Indian airline.
The most interesting of all airline performance indicators is load factors. Load factors are often looked upon as indicators of successful commercial operations at an airline.
DGCA publishes certain airline related data based on an ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation, a UN body) ATR (Air Transport) ‘FORM A’. This form is filled and submitted by airlines to the DGCA, which the DGCA then uses to report load factors airline wise.
The manner in which the DGCA computes load factors is by dividing Passenger-Kilometers (PK) by Available seat Kilometers (ASK). PK is a product of total passengers flown and the total kilometres flown by the airline in a particular month. ASK is the number of seats on all flights multiplied by the total kilometres flown by the airline in that particular month. Dividing PK by ASK simplifies to the ratio of Passengers Flown by Available Seats, which is the definition of load factor.
Another way of computing load factors is to determine the available seats using data not reported in ICAO ATR FORM A. This is the number of seats on every flight. FORM A mentions the number of departures in a month. In single fleet airlines such as IndiGo, Go Air, AirAsia and Vistara, the number of seats on every aircraft is uniform fleet-wide. This means that every flight on each of the above mentioned airlines flies 180, 180, 180 and 148 seats, respectively.
Multiplying the number of flights by the number of seats per aircraft will result in the number of seats flown in that month. Dividing the number of passengers flown by the number of seats gives us load factors for the month.
The first and second method should result in the same numbers. However, this is not the case. Below is the reported load factors versus the computed load factors for IndiGo since it started operations. The two methods agree with each other till December 2008. From January 2009, when the DGCA changed its format of reporting data, the errors have been present, and have been unacceptably large and inconsistent.
The data shows that, according to computations, domestic load factors at IndiGo never crossed 90%, and that load factors crossed 80% only on 7 occasions in 9 years. Average domestic load factors at the airline, across 9 years, is recomputed as just 71.5%, with the highest at 83.3% in the month of May 2015. Of course, this arguably assumes that the number of departures and the number of passengers reported by the DGCA are correct.
Similarly, AirAsia India’s and Vistara’s load factors are not always representative of the actual load factors. In the case of these two airlines, the error is small. However, every 1% error in load factor corresponds to a monthly revenue of INR 56 lakhs for an airline the size of AirAsia India, and INR 16 crore for an airline the size of IndiGo.
Vistara’s load factors have never crossed 70%.
Below is that of Go air, for 9 months only:
Considering that the data is derived from what airlines have published, it may be that part of the onus for the error rests on airlines. It is difficult to compute the error in load factors of airlines such as SpiceJet, Jet Airways, Air India, and Air Costa.
Faith in our method of computation is based on cross checking certain computed load factors with the information revealed by a senior airline official.
On Time Performance
Airline on time performance is another parameter met with much enthusiasm. For example, for the month of April of 2015, DGCA reported that AirAsia India had an on time performance (OTP) of 100.0%. DGCA mentions the OTP as observed at only four airports: Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi. Back then, AirAsia India was based only out of Bengaluru.
However, Bengaluru International airport, in its On Time Performance (OPT) report for April, clearly mentions AirAsia India’s arrival OTP as 89% and departure OTP as 98%. This averages to 93.5% OTP, which made headlines as 100%. (Click here for an NDTV piece on this)
Similarly, Go Air’s OTP for Bengaluru was reported by the DGCA as 88.9%, while the airport stated that the airline had an arrival OTP of 73% and a departure OTP of 86%. The DGCA’s OTP for Go Air at Bengaluru was impossibly higher than the higher of the two OTP for the airline for that month.
IndiGo’s OTP at Bengaluru was reported as 77.2%, while the airport stated that the airline had an arrival OTP of 73% and a departure OTP of 81%. In this case, the average of the departure and arrival worked out to 77%, which is acceptable.
In the case of SpiceJet, OTP at Bengaluru was reported as 68.2%, while the airport stated that the airline had an arrival OTP of 78% and a departure OTP of 78%. In this case, the reported OTP is lower than the actual OTP of 78%.
Data reported by the DGCA is very informative. The data is used by analysts and major industry bodies for studies, reports, and analysis. However, no matter how good the analysis, junk data in results in junk data out, with misleading facts and figures about the industry and the performance of airlines.
Poor data standards may give airlines a way to falsely drive up their performance figures, which may be for many reasons, such as driving up investor sentiment.
Alliance Air, which is branded as Air India Regional, received its 5th brand new ATR 72-600 from Toulouse. The aircraft, registered VT-AIW, joins the fleet of four other ATR 72-600s, registered VT-AII, VT-AIT, VT-AIU and VT-AIV. Al five aircraft are leased from Singapore based leasing company Avation.
The ATR 72-600s, which employ an all new cockpit avionics based on technology used on the Airbus A380, is to replace the aging fleet of four ATR 42-320s. The ATR 42-320s in Alliance air are fitted with 48 seats, while the ATR 72-600s are fitted with 70 seats. The older ATRs sport a four bladed propeller, which made the aircraft noisier than the present six-bladed propellers. Passive noise reduction techniques make the present -600’s cabin a lot more pleasant than the older ATRs’.
With the arrival of VT-AIW, which was ferried Toulouse (TLS) – Heraklion (HER) – Ankara (ESB) – Abu Dhabi (AUH) – Delhi (DEL), the total count of active ATR 72s in India (-500 & -600) has gone upto 27, split as 15 ATR 72-500 (Jet AIrways) + 3 ATR 72-600 (Jet AIrways) + 5 ATR 72-600 (Air India Regional / Alliance Air) + 2 ATR 72-500 (Air Pegasus) + 2 ATR 72-500 (TruJet). One ATR 72-500 is undergoing painting at Hosur, destined for Air Pegaus.
India totally has 51 70-80 seat turboprops in service, including 14 Bombardier Q400s of SpiceJet. The smaller ATR 42s, aged on average 21+ years, will soon be phased out.
Air India Regional / Alliance Air flies the longest turboprop route in the country, between Delhi and Rajkot, over 505 nautical miles, a flight that takes 2:30 hours block time, almost the same block time an Airbus or Boeing mainline narrowbody jet (A320 & 737 family) takes to fly double the distance. Due to insufficient crew, and to align with the schedules of the network of its parent Air India, the ATRs at Alliance Air are not utilised as much as the aircraft can be. Average present utilisation of the aircraft at the airline is close to 6 hours per aircraft per day. The aircraft operate only four flights a day, while Jet Airways operates upto 13 hours per aircraft per day and 9 flights per aircraft per day. (maximum figures).
Of the presently four operational ATR 72-600s with Alliance Air, three are based at Delhi, and operate flights to Kullu, Dharamshala, Allahabad, Dehradun, Rajkot and Pantnagar. One is based at Hyderabad, and operates flights to Vijayawada and Tirupati, offering competition to TruJet and Air Costa.
An ATR 72 is best suited for short (distance) and thin (low demand) routes of upto 350 nautical miles. Beyond this, a regional jet generally becomes a more viable and economical option. The shortest ATR 72 sector in India is operated by Jet Airways between Porbandar and Diu, a flight that lasts just 45 minutes block time over a distance of 90 nautical miles (166km). The average ATR 72 city pair distance in India is 223 nautical miles (413 km), while the average domestic flight distance across all domestic flights of all carriers on all aircraft in India is 455NM (843 km).
70-80 seat turboprops serve as good feeder aircraft to mainline aircraft, enabling deeper and true regional penetration in India, especially since many airfields and city pairs in India, today, are operationally and commercially unviable for regional and mainline jets. Many runways are too short for regional and mainline jets, and many cities are too underdeveloped to viably support larger aircraft.
The maps below show the pan-India coverage that turboprops can achieve by being based out of five metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, and by flying a maximum distance of 400NM. Range circles are 300NM and 400NM radius, as mentioned.
Over the next 20 years, a demand for 2,500 turboprops is anticipated, of which close to 50% may be based at Asia.
Header image does not represent VT-AIW, but VT-AII.
Hyderabad based TruJet, brand name of Turbo Megha Airways Private Limited, is India’s 9th operational private airline, the country’s third operational regional scheduled domestic airline, and the country’s second all-turboprop, operational airline.
Turbo Megha Airways Private Limited was incorporated in March 2013, by three persons: Vankayalapati Umesh, Ram Charan Tej Konidala, and Ram’s sister, Sushmita Laggishetty.
46 year old Umesh, who serves as the Managing Director (MD) of the airline, rose from a ground-handling technician to running Turbo Aviation, which includes a jet charter company ‘Turbo Charter’ that owns a Cessna CitationCJ2. Turbo Aviation also offers ground handling services, CAMO services, and MRO Services.
30 year old Ram Charan is a Telugu Actor, and a director of MAA TV and reportedly owns Hyderabad Polo Horse Riding club. He and his older sister Sushmita are two of three children to 59 year old actor, producer, and Indian National Congress politician Konidela Siva Sankara Vara Prasad alias ‘Chiranjeevi’.
The company had an authorized share capital of INR 15 crores (INR 150 million), which was 3 Crores more than the minimum paid up capital requirement for an airline operating turboprop aircraft of the likes of ATR 72 and Q400, or regional jets like the Embraer E170, 175 and CRJ 700 and 900. Seating capacity was hence limited to the 70 – 90 seat category.
In May 2013, the airline pumped in INR 7 crores as capital, followed by another 5 crores which took the total paid up capital to 12 crores in July 2013 – sufficient to satisfy the DGCA requirement for the application of a regional permit.
In July 2014 – a year later, the airline received its no objection certificate (NOC) that allowed the airline to start the process towards obtaining an air operator permit (AOP). The formal application meeting for a southern regional AOP was held on 23rd January 2015.
In April 2015, the authorized share capital of the airline was increased to INR 50 crores, which can allow for a paid up capital of the same amount – the amount advised by the DGCA. This also allows the airline to apply for a pan-India license with larger airplanes.
In May 2015, Prem Kumar Pandey, Assistant Vice President at Megha Engineering & Infrastructures Ltd (MEIL), was appointed as a director, with investment from MEIL. 29 year old Prem is the son-in-law of one of the promoters of MEIL. ‘Megha’ in the registered name Turbo Megha Airways Private Limited indicates that investment from MEIL was certain way back in 2013.
Shareholding pattern in the airline is believed to have been restructured to stand as 22%-26%-52% between Umesh – Charan & family – MEIL, with access to around an additional INR 100 crore.
The airline received its first of two ATR 72-500 aircraft on 21st May 2015. The aircraft had earlier flown for the Malaysian airline and charter operator Berjaya Air. The 6 year old aircraft MSN 858 is registered VT-TMK, and the cabin is laid out with 72 seats. A month later, the airline received its second ATR 72-500 (MSN 875). After Berjaya shut turboprop operations, both aircraft were purchased by Singapore based Phoenix Aircraft Leasing, and were sold to Ireland based Elix Aviation Capital Services in December 2014. Elix has dry-leased the airplanes to TruJet. The same lessor has leased airplanes to Bangalore based Air Pegasus, which is a smart move as it helps transfer assets between operators should either shut operations.
The airline received its AOP on 7th July 2015, less than a year since obtaining its NOC, and around one-and-a-half months since receiving its first aircraft, making it the fastest regional Indian airline to obtain its AOP. Turbo Aviation’s experience with running a charter service which resulted in good preparedness, and the airline’s connections in the ministry are believed to have speeded up the process.
Trujet is an interesting name considering the airline operates turboprop aircraft for now. However, it must be borne in mind that a turboprop engine’s core is a jet engine.
According to the airline, ‘Trujet logo is inspired by the national bird of India peacock and represents all that the TruJet service aspires to be— graceful, joyful and luxurious. The logo also conveys attributes of service, professionalism, sophistication and, importantly, the airline’s Indian roots.’
Network, Operations & Competition
Usually, airlines take about a week to open for bookings once the AOP is received. Once bookings open, an airline starts operations usually 2-4 weeks thereafter. This allows sufficient bookings to build up before operations can commence.
In the case of Trujet, the airline wanted to cash in on the Pushkaram festival, an Indian festival dedicated to worshiping of rivers, once every 12 years. The airline started operations with one aircraft on 12th July, flying between Hyderabad, Chennai, Tirupati, and Rajamundry.
On 26th July, the airline commenced its regular, non-seasonal operations with one aircraft, connecting Aurangabad, Tirupati and Rajamundry to Hyderabad. All three destinations are significantly driven by religious tourism. Aurangabad is an airport very close to a religious destination – Shirdi. The airline stopped services to Chennai from 26th July.
Presently, the airline operates a double Hyderabad-Tirupati service, and single Hyderabad- Rajamundry and Hyderabad-Aurangabad services. With this, the airline operates 8 flights a day, clocking 10:20 hours of utilisation with turn-around times of 25 minutes. Average block time is 1:20 hours, and average sector distances are 220NM. With such sectors, the aircraft can be pushed (subject to commercial and operational viability) to fly a maximum of 10 flights a day with a utilisation totaling a little over 13 hours a day. However, the present utilisation is good for a startup airline.
The second aircraft is expected to be operationally ready in a week’s time, and will fly sectors out of Chennai.
At the time of research, Trujet’s frequency between Hyderabad and Tirupati, both ways, is twice daily, against 6 flights onward and 8 flights on the return. Aircraft deployed on the sector are in the 70-80 seat category including Air Costa’s Embraer E170s and SpiceJet’s Q400s. However, Air India deploys 172 seat A321s and 48 seat ATR 42s on that route.
On the Hyderabad-Aurangabad sector, Trujet enjoys a monopoly.
On the Hyderabad – Rajamundry sector, Trujet’s single frequency competes with SpiceJet’s 1 onward and 2 return frequencies, and Jet Airways’ three frequencies either way. While SpiceJet deploys its 78 seat Bombardier Q400s on the route, Jet Airways deploys ATR 72-500s. Difference in speeds between the two types result in only 5-10 minutes of block time difference.
The airline offers a transit (no change of flight) service between Tirupati and Aurangabad via Hyderabad.
A flat 4% sales tax on fuel (in comparison to upto 28%) for aircraft operating scheduled serviced with less than 80 seats, and a waiver of airport charges for aircraft of such weight category will keep direct operating costs at Trujet lean. The operating economics of the ATR 72, which is best suited for such mission lengths, will further contribute to a lean operating structure.
Maintenance of the aircraft is carried out in house at Turbo Aviation’s maintenance facility, which has an approval for the aircraft type.
The airline has a very simple fare model that has 13 active fare buckets. Fares for all sectors in corresponding buckets are the same fare, whether a direct or a hopping flight. There seems to be no discounted one-way fares for return flights. Adaptation to sectors that are higher in demand or longer is achieved by erasing lower fare buckets. The first 9 buckets are in flat INR 500 increments, and the last 4 buckets are in increasing increments. The airline will reportedly offer 10% discount for senior citizens, students below 18 years, members of the South India Artistes’ Association and those from the film fraternity.
Trujet may become the only airline in India to offer a comprehensive travel solution. To cater to passengers whose wish to be connected to cities or towns that do not have an airport, the airline plans of introducing Volvo bus services that pick up passengers to drop them at the airport, and pick up passengers from airports to drop them at their actual destinations such as Shirdi. The airline reportedly plans to assume full responsibility of baggage handling at the bus pick up point, the airport, and the bus drop point.
The airline reportedly offers a complimentary in-flight meal.
The airline has reportedly identified 18 tier-II towns and cities in the south for operations. Most major airport cities in the southern region show promise.
Some of the other destinations, as made public earlier, are Mangalore, Vijayawada, Bangalore, Hubli, Vishakhapatnam, Tuticorin, Coimbatore, Salem, and Kadapa. The airline’s new destinations are expected to be announced when the second aircraft is ready to fly online, as the first aircraft’s rotation has no room to accommodate new flights.
The airline reportedly has plans to increase the fleet to around 5 aircraft by March 2016. The fleet is reportedly expected to touch a size of 4 in January 2016.
The airline is targeting a break even period of 12 – 24 months. This translates to a break even between Q1’17 and Q1’18.
A regional model with turboprops makes for a good feeder model, and may be sustainable in low capacity high demand routes, but may saturate fast without room for growth in connectivity. The ATR 72 is ideal for sectors of upto 1:45 hrs block time. For real growth, an airline must look beyond mere regional connectivity, and will need to offer pan India, inter-regional connectivity, which is commercially and operationally viable with regional jets. The airline is reportedly taking steps towards expanding its operational territory beyond the southern region into neighboring regions, for now with its turboprop aircraft.
The airline may adopt a dual-fleet strategy for a good combination of range, connectivity, and penetration.
It is to be seen if the airline becomes the first regional operator to convert to a pan-India license.
The Flying Engineer offered comments on Trujet to Business Standard, based on this research . Click Here to read.
For a country where the mainstream media is expected to sensationalise any and every news related to aviation, it comes as a surprise how the otherwise over-enthusiastic media has not been able to connect the dots in the recent developments at SpiceJet.
In November 2013, SpiceJet “appointed" Sanjiv Kapoor as its Chief Operations Officer (COO). Sanjiv Kapoor held the position of Senior Director, Temasek Holdings for 1yr 8 months. Temasek Holdings, directly and indirectly through Singapore Airlines has a significant stake in Tiger Airways, which operates as Tigerair.
Now, in February 2014, SpiceJet announced the “appointment" of Kaneswaran Avili as Chief Commercial Officer, effective April 1st 2014. Interestingly, the position he holds today is Director-Commercial at Tiger Airways, and has held that position since October 2012.
Men with very, very impressive resumes are being “appointed" by SpiceJet, a sure sign of good times to come. Interestingly, men related to Tiger Airways, in the past and the present, are joining Spicejet, which seems less of an “appointment" and more of an insert. In simple language: Tiger Airways seems to be actively reforming the airline with its own people before it can invest in SpiceJet.
The experience that the COO and the CCO bring seem to be complimentary: Sanjiv Kapoor has had experience only with full service, legacy carriers. That is great from the operational perspective. Although successful low cost airlines have been known for streamlined operations, the experience Sanjiv gained at leading airlines can help transform the way in which the SpiceJet brand is viewed today. Dirty seats, dirty airplanes, and unhappy services are on their way out.
Kaneswaran, on the other hand comes with a solid experience of 12 years not the “airline" industry, but the low cost airline Industry. He was part of the start up team of AirAsia in 2001, played a pivotal role in Air Asia’s expansion into neighbouring countries. He’s been associated with famous low cost brands: Air Asia, and Garuda Indonesia Citilink. Importantly, he was engaged by Viva Macau, Macau first LCC start up, where he was tasked with the responsibility for re-engineering the commercial unit and implementation of new commercial and network strategies to return the airline to route profitability. Recently, Kanesh completed a short but intense commercial transformation project for Citilink Indonesia. These responsibilities and experience are what SpiceJet can do with.
Sanjiv’s full service experience in operations and Kaneswaran’s rich low cost experience can, if well leveraged, make SpiceJet the preferred low cost airline: based on fares, and on service. Something that IndiGo is already known for.
“His deep domain knowledge on airline commercial across sales & distribution, revenue management, marketing, network planning, airline system and market penetration strategy would be key in transforming SpiceJet commercial capability and improving overall route and airline profitability," said Mr. Sanjiv Kapoor, Chief Operating Officer, SpiceJet Ltd.
Interestingly, Sanjiv Kapoor, more than a week ago, said, “SpiceJet is also demonstrating that you do not need foreign airlines to show India the power of low fares and market stimulation; we are just as capable of doing it ourselves, and are committed to creating multiple opportunities for as many Indians as possible to fly." That ambiguous statement was clarified by SpiceJet as referring to “Air Asia’s constant claims that they will stimulate demand."
And now we have on board the airline the very man who was part of the start up team of AirAsia.
Says Sanjiv Kapoor, “Kanesh’s joining is part of an ongoing refresh of SpiceJet’s management team, with further announcements to be made in the coming weeks"
This piece has 3 parts: the first entirely factual, the second, Spicejet’s offer and what it should do to make itself more appealing (based on actual feedback), and the third: a focus on Spicejet, its COO, and its investor: is a part factual and part well informed yet speculative section.
The Big Sale left no great Tale.
In the 3 months of February, March and April 2012, Spicejet had flown 838,911 empty seats that made up 25% of the airline’s average seat capacity in that 3 month period. Based on the airline’s past performance and future growth projections, 25% in that 3 month period, in 2013, was to have translated to 987,644 seats. Make that 1,000,000 (10 lakh) for the arithmophobic.
That’s the exact number of tickets that were on sale, mid January, for an all inclusive fare of INR 2013, during the airline’s Big Sale offer, valid for travel during February, March and April, 2013.
The numbers made sense; everyone was convinced, and the figures added up to a promise. The load factors were expected to lean towards 100%, by roping in travellers who otherwise would have preferred the Indian Railways. It should have made perfect sense.
But it didn’t. In that 3 month period, the airline flew 900,733 empty seats, 7% more empty seats than those in the same period, in 2012. Capacity had grown 17%, demand grew 20%, but the average load factor had grown a dismal 2.8% to 77.3%.
But did it have the effect of siphoning off passengers from other players, including its biggest, true low cost competitor, IndiGo? In the same period, Feb-April 2013, IndiGo’s capacity grew 24%, demand grew 27%, and load factors increased, eerily, by the exact same amount as Spicejet’s: 2.8%, to 82.7%.
And yes, both airlines flew 900,000 empty seats each in that 3 month period.
Focusing on the consistent, business traveller.
It’s that time of the year, again, and Spicejet has a new offer: the Spicejet Corporate Flyer Offer, which offers to corporate companies 1 free one way ticket for every 6 completed one way journeys and 2 free one way tickets for every 10 completed one way journeys, with applicable T&C. This year, until probably any other offer is introduced, the airline has shifted focus from the Aam Aadmi, and focused on Corporates.
Will it pay off? Maybe. But unlike targeting the rail-going population, the corporate traveller needs something more: good service. And from what we’ve been hearing, including from a top management guy from one of the world’s largest manufacturers of computers, with a strong India presence, the service needs a makeover.
Agreed, India is a price sensitive market, but it’s not always the fares and offers that attracts a passenger: promise must be met with delivery. Because everyone remembers the bad and not the good. And an airline wouldn’t want to risk that, if one of its passengers is a decision maker at a big, big company.
Pilot in Command: Sanjiv Kapoor
This small, yet deepened focus on the corporate traveller may be one of the changes brought about by the Sanjiv Kapoor guided airline. Sanjiv Kapoor, interestingly, was employed by Bain & Co for over 5 years, the last position that of a Principle. His profile spanned strategy, turn around, alliances, network planning, revenue enhancement, procurement, post-merger integration, and customer experience transformation.
His absorption into the company is very interesting. Customer Experience can do way, way better in the airline, and hopefully, he’s here to deliver. Alliances: he’s already entered Spicejet into an interline agreement with Tigerair.
And the most interesting part is here: procurement, and post-merger integration. Very surprisingly, Sanjiv appointed consulting Bain and Co. to restructure the airline’s network and return it to profitability. Sanjiv also held the position of Senior Director, Temasek Holdings for 1yr 8 months. Temasek Holdings, directly and indirectly through Singapore Airlines has a significant stake in Tiger Airways, which operates as Tigerair.
Some wonder if Spicejet hired Sanjiv, or Tigerair placed Sanjiv in Spicejet. The quarterly loss of Spicejet is eerily similar to that of Indonesian carrier Mandala Airlines, which was grounded in 2011, for a year, following debt related issues. The airline took to the skies again, reborn as Tigerair Mandala.
The winds point to Tigerair investing in the Indian low cost airline. The winds are strong and steady, and the dawn of 2014 will show us the airline and its investor, striped or not.
Jet Airways presently has a fleet of 18 ATR 72 aircraft, of which VT-JCX is an ATR 72-600, the rest being the -500 version of the popular ATR 72 aircraft. Very minor changes are present between the two airplane types (even the engine remains unchanged), and the largest difference lies in cockpit, which is all glass on the ATR 72-600, as opposed to a mix of mechanical and electronic displays on the -500.
On the 5th of December, 2012, Jet Airways issued a press release announcing the planned induction of five new ATR 72-600 aircraft into their fleet. The aircraft, some leased and some yet to be, from GECAS, are VT-JCX, VT-JCY, VT-JCZ, VT-JDA, and VT-JDB.
VT-JCX (MSN 1056) first flew on the 21st of November, 2012, and delivered on the 3rd of December, 2012, just 2 days before the issue of the press release. JCX flies in JetKonnect colors.
VT-JCY (MSN 1064) first flew on the 8th of December, 2012, and was “delivered” on the 31st of December 2012. The aircraft is painted in JetKonnect colors, but is stored at Toulouse Blagnac.
VT-JCZ (MSN 1075) first flew on the 27th of February, 2013, is painted in JetKonnect colors, but is yet to be delivered.
MSN 1077 was slated to be registered VT-JDA, but instead, is registered as V2-LIA, for LIAT, a Caribbean Airline.
The fate of MSN 1091, planned to be registered VT-JDB, is unknown.
So what went wrong? Kingfisher.
Two new ATR 72-500 joined the Jet Airways fleet: VT-JDC and VT-JDD. VT-JDC was registered on the 12th of February, 2013, and VT-JDD was registered on the 5th of March, 2013. JDC was formerly VT-KAO, and JDD was VT-KAK, both manufactured in 2007, and then delivered to Kingfisher Airlines.
Following Kingfisher’s collapse, the very attractive lease rates of the ATR 72-500, and the “no observable operational benefits" of the ATR 72-600 over the -500 have disrupted the -600’s plans in India.
As of today, the newest ATR 72 produced is MSN 1084, flying for Mount Cook Airlines, New Zealand. But the presence of a good number of Kingfisher ATR 72-500 in the country doesn’t bode too well for the sales of ATR 72-600 airplanes in South Asia; equally well performing ATR 72-500s are available cheap.
The Airbus A380’s tail is finished separately, and then attached to the unpainted fuselage of the beast. Airbus released photos showing the painted first Airbus A380 for British Airways, and stated that the tail is made of approximately 10,000 individual dots on the tailfin to produce the effect of the Union Flag.
A close observation of the photo to the left (click to enlarge) will reveal that the fuselage is painted (flat finish), but the tail is made from a stencil (dotted finish), with the near-ten thousand dots that had to be peeled off. Unlike other liveries, the British Airways’ Union Flag isn’t made of a flat colour, requiring the stencil, as opposed to a simple paint job.
With respect to type rating designation for the ATR 42/72 series, DGCA finally recognizes the same type rating (single license endorsement) for the existing ATR 42/72 variants and ATR-600 variants as “ATR42/72". This means that the flight crew on Jet Airways’ ATR 72-500 can now fly either the -600 variant or the -500 variant on a single day, but not both the types on the same day.
This allows Jet Airways to better utilise its turboprop flight crew, which until recently was affected by DGCA’s then non recognition of the common type rating for the two types.
With only 2 ATR 72-600 in its fleet, and more expected to be inducted, this recognition is welcomed as Jet Airways slowly phases out the -500 in favour of the -600. Further, Jet Airways will realise training cost savings from the newly opened ATR Training Centre at Singapore, which houses one ATR 72-600 FFS (Full Flight Simulator).
The common rating is allowed with a differences training. EASA recommends a differences training of 5 days, which includes and covers 28 hours of classroom instruction, web based training, and practice on the Virtual Hardware Platform Trainer (VHPT), and 4 hours per crew on a Full Flight Training device (FFT), such as a FFS.
The differences training between the two aircraft focus on:
Engine malfunctions during take-off;
Use of avionics in normal and abnormal / emergency operations, including FMA annunciations, caution and warning messages on the Engine & Warning Display (EWD), and associated human factors issues;
Use of Flight Management System (FMS);
Use of Electronic Checklist (ECL);
Ice detection and management systems and displays (including APM); and
Crew Resource Management (CRM) with regard to the new functionalities.
Jet Airways (I) Pvt Ltd has reportedly leased two Kingfisher ATR 72-500s, bearing DGCA registrations VT-KAK (MSN 758) and VT-KAO (MSN 772), both manufactured in the year 2007. These two aircraft are leased from INV Jet Leasing Ltd.
Jet Airways has managed to lease these planes at a very attractive rate, thanks to the inability of the lessors repossess and fly out Kingfisher aircraft.
The aircraft are being painted in the Jet Airways’ livery; re-registration of the aircraft is uncertain. (Update: Aircraft re-registered as VT-JDD and VT-JDC, respectively)
Of the 15 Kingfisher ATR 72-500s registered with the DGCA, only three seem to be leased from traceable and established lessors.
VT-JCX (click for photo) and VT-JCY are now visible on the DGCA’s aircraft register; These are the two, and presently only ATR 72-600s in India, flying for Jet Airways, and deployed on the Mumbai-Diu-Porbandar and Mumbai-Udaipur sectors.
Interestingly, both airplanes reflect on the register as “ATR 72-212A", which is no different from the type designation of the ATR 72-500. While it is confusing for someone looking up the registry to know if it refers to the ATR 72-500 or the ATR 72-600, a simple look at the All Up Weight, year of manufacture and evidently the manufacturer serial number will sort out your confusion; The ATR 72-600s have an AUW of 23,000kgs, while the ATR 72-500s had a maximum of 22,800 (in the Jet Airways Fleet). But why the same name?
According to the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA):
ATR 72-212A “600 version” is the designation to identify ATR 72-212A aircraft models having received the New Avionic Suite (NAS) modification, also named as “Glass Cockpit”, which represents the incorporation of ATR Significant Major Change no 5948 and a batch of associated ATR (major & minor) modifications. ATR 72-212A “600 version” aircraft are not considered as new aircraft model or variant. “ATR 72-600” is the commercial designation of the ATR 72-212A aircraft model fitted with NAS modification. This designation must not be used on ATR certified / approved documentation, and only mention of ‘Mod 5948’, ‘ATR 72- 212A with Mod 5948’, “ATR 72-212A fitted with NAS‟ or “ATR 72-212A -600 version" must be indicated.
F-WWEY, manufacturer serial number (MSN) 098, is a 24 year old ATR 72, made in the same year as the first flight of the ATR 72. That very ATR was, in the May of 2009, converted to a ATR 72-600, highlighting the minimal visible differences and changes that the 72 has undergone since its first flight.
The biggest change in the ATR 72 is the new avionic suite, which transforms the Honeywell and Collins cluttered deck to a clean, well laid out modern glass cockpit with avionics from Thales. Borrowing philosophy and deriving certain functionality from the Airbus A380, the cockpit is new. Very new.
The Dividing Line: The clean and well presented -600 cockpit (left) and the cluttered -500 cockpit (right). Undoubtedly late, but worth the wait.
So new that a very senior commander with the airline, says that “An ATR 72-500 can directly hand fly the -600 easily, for nothing changes with respect to the handling. But he will not be using the avionics to the best of its automation capabilities and functions that significantly ease crew workload, and boost situation awareness".
Honestly, when I sat with the cockpit layout diagram of the ATR, I was lost, despite being very familiar with the -500. Where you once knew knobs, switches and controls to be: may not be there at all!
With CRTs and electro-mechanical gauges replaced by 5 LCD screens of 6" x 8", the number of parts has been cut down by 30%, offering a 30kg weight saving and maintenance cost savings of around 15%. For an aircraft that has jumped 200 kgs in its AUW in comparison to the -500 fleet at Jet Airways, 30 kgs is a significant amount.
Primary Flight Display
Let’s try to understand the gains. The older ATR cockpit has, for primary flight instruments, an electro mechanical airspeed indicator with bugs that need to be manually set, a CRT based EADI (Electronic Attitude and Direction Indicator), that would only show you, in addition, if you were flying faster or slower than the manually set speed on the airspeed indicator. The altimeter is electromechanical, with a knob to set the pressure. Newer vertical speed indicators are small, LCD screen based, that also doubles up as a traffic alert collision and avoidance system (TCAS) display, with a small map showing proximate traffic, and the range of these proximate traffic set by a range button. All this, and significantly more functions, are now packed into the primary flight display, which is just one 10" display. There are no moving parts. There is no bulky equipment associated with a Cathode Ray Tube. There is reduced electromagnetic interference, and reduced cooling requirements. If you need a simple comparison, think of the difference between a 34" LCD screen and an old TV. The LCD screen is clearer, crisper, bigger, with richer colours, thinner, significantly much lighter, and when you place your hand near the back, you hardly feel any heat. And if you are to bring your portable radio near the LCD screen, you’ll hardly hear any interference, if not nothing at all.
The ATR 72’s NAS cockpit is way beyond this. Besides eliminating old technology, and boosting reliability, the NAS introduces much greater functionality that serves one significant purpose: reduced crew workload and increased situation awareness. The ATR crew today is better equipped to answer the questions of “When", “Where", “Why", “What" and “Who" much quicker, with possibly greater accuracy than ever before, without moving the head and hands too much in the cockpit.
Organized, simplified, reliable and enhanced: this is the new ATR that will make your flight in the skies safer. Join me as we discover how, as we embark on a journey that describes, in significant and sufficient detail what this new airplane offers, in contrast to the other 42 ATR aircraft registered in India.