The airline, which will end calendar year 2015 with a fleet of six airplanes, is expected to induct atleast one additional aircraft before end March 2016.
The additional aircraft, which will be the 7th airplane for the hitherto 17 month old airline, will be based out of Bengaluru. Presently, three are based at Bengaluru, and two at Delhi, with the 6th aircraft taking the count at Dehi to three. Basing the 7th out of Bengaluru is necessary to ensure that atleast 50% of the airline’s fleet is based out of Bengaluru, as per an agreement AirAsia India has with Kempegowda International Airport, Bengaluru. This agreement, a drive by the airport to increase traffic, gives AirAsia India certain benefits in terms of airport charges.
The 7th aircraft is expected to add a third frequency between Bengaluru and Delhi (both ways), and increase the frequency between Bengaluru and Goa to thrice daily, both ways. The aircraft will enable the opening of a new sector for the airline, a direct flight between Bengaluru and Guwahati.
With the 7th aircraft, the airline will fly 46 daily flights from its two hubs at Bengaluru and Delhi, deploying 8,280 seats a day. Capacity in ASK will increase by 47% over the 34 daily flights flown today, and 19% over the full utilisation of the fleet with 6 aircraft.
Air Pegasus, which started operations mid April and now has a fleet of 2 ATR 72-500s, is impacted by shortage of crew to fly its aircraft.
The Bangalore based airline, which in August announced a second frequency to Hubli, to allow for a day return for passengers from either city, has not yet operated the morning 7:05 Hubli flight since 20th August 2015, effectively serving just one flight either way, each day. The airline isn’t yet accepting bookings for the morning Hubli flight.
The airline has reportedly stopped operating flights to Cuddapah since a significantly long time. The airline is next open for bookings to Cuddapah only on the 11th of October. Air Pegasus inaugurated the Cuddapah airport, and was the only operator flying to the city. It operated the first flight to the city on 7th June, 2015.
Crew shortage is preventing the airline from both operating scheduled flights as well as expanding or strengthening the route network. Cancellation rates at the airline, which started at 0%, started increasing month on month to touch the airline’s high of 5.81% in the month of August.
Air Pegasus presently operates two ATR 72-500 registered VT-APA and VT-APB, both ex-Kingfisher ATR 72s leased from Elix Aero. The airline is presently scheduled to operate 16 flights a day (except Tuesdays), of which it currently operates only 12 – 14 flights a day. The maximum present daily aircraft utilisation is 10:50 hrs, and an average of 8:10 – 9:15 hrs per aircraft per day. Till the 31st of August 2015, the airline had flown 40,930 passengers with an average load factor of 75%. The average distance flown per flight is 435km, and the average block hour duration is 1:20 hrs per flight.
Air Pegasus is one of 5, 70-seat turboprop operators, and one of 4 ATR 72 operators in India. Trujet and Air Pegasus are the only two scheduled airlines in India to operate an all ATR 72 fleet.
2015 is turning out to be the third boom in Indian civil aviation. The first was around 1995, when the sole aim was to start airlines. The second boom was in and around 2005 (ten years later), when low cost carriers were a fad. The third boom that hovers around 2015 (ten years after 2005), seems to be the birth of disruptive airlines. AirAsia India, Vistara, and a slew of regionals : Air Costa, Air Pegasus, Trujet, and Flyeasy.
Mainline routes have saturated. The 180 seat jet has been used, and perhaps, abused. Many markets are still too small to have either a 180 seat jet deployed, or too long in distance to be flown by a turboprop. Turboprops cater to short and thin routes, while regional jets, such as the Embraer E-jets, Mitsubishi MRJ, the Bombardier CRJ series and the CSeries cater to long and thin routes. 180 seat single aisle jets are best suited to long and denser routes.
With the saturation of the 180 seat market, the real gap left behind in India is the much needed inter-regional connectivity, mostly the long routes between Tier II, Tier III cities and Tier I cities. That is where the gap is, and Air Costa moved in to exercise a first mover advantage to tap that market. With Air Costa’s growth being slower than initially projected, and a market that is big enough with a high growth rate, Flyeasy seems to move in to tap the untapped market.
Based on hiring drives on Flyeasy’s Facebook page, the airline may fly to Tiruchy, Bagdogra, Ranchi, Varanasi, Indore and Bhubaneshwar from Bangalore. The network is yet unknown at this stage, but considering a regional operating permit and its limitations, the airline may fly a point-to-point network between Bangalore and six stations.
Sources reveal that the airline will be leasing two Embraer E190s from Flynas (formerly known as NASair). NASair had six Embraer E190s in its fleet, of which two have been transferred to Borajet and one to AnadoluJet of Turkey. Three other E190LRs seem to be in storage, of which 7 year olds MSN 217 and 233 are expected to join Flyeasy’s fleet, and presently are at Jordan undergoing ‘C’ checks. Both aircraft are powered by GE CF34-10E7 engines and are configured to seat 110 passengers each in a single class configuration.
MSN 217 is out of the paint shop, in Flyeasy colors, and is expected to be flown into Bangalore this month. The aircraft may be registered with the VT-VVx series, with the first two aircraft expected to be registered VT-VVA and VT-VVB. Maintenance of the aircraft has been outsourced to Airworks.
The airline apparently plans to launch operations with 3 aircraft, and grow the fleet to a total of 5 aircraft within the first 6 months of operations, and discussions with lessors for these aircraft are believed to be in advanced stages. The airline has ambitious plans to grow the fleet to 10 aircraft by July 2017, which seem a bit optimistic.
The airline held a formal application meeting with the DGCA on the 6th of July, 2015. Considering that it takes around 90 days from the formal application meeting to receive the AOP, the airline may receive its AOP towards the end of September, or around early October 2015. This may make the airline open for sales around mid-October 2015, and start commercial operations towards the end of October or early November 2015.
Fleet growth plans, when translated to dates, indicate a fleet of 5 aircraft by April 2016, and thereafter on average one aircraft every 3 months till July 2017, when the fleet size is expected to touch 10.
However, AirAsia India, Air Pegasus, and Air Costa have shown that fleet projections tend to be over optimistic, and are seldom adhered to. The airline plans to induct airplanes through both operating and financing leases.
The real promoters or the source(s) of funding are yet unknown, but the funding seems to be from the Middle East. It is uncertain if there exists foreign direct investment (FDI) or investments from non-resident Indians (NRI).
The airline published the management bios of its 15 heads of departments on its website. Besides a CEO, the airline also has a deputy CEO, Lila Singh Aulakh, who formerly was the director of operations at Air Costa.
Although Air Costa and Flyeasy operate the same aircraft type, the network of Air Costa and the possible destinations of Flyeasy do not overlap. Competition in this case is only notional, with both airlines having no true competitors at this stage.
One very important observation about Flyeasy is the importance the airline gives to the organisational culture. The airline calls its employees a ‘family’. CEO Finn Thaulow, who spent a large part of his airline career with SAS, may have been inspired by Jan Carlzon, who was the CEO of the SAS group between 1981 – 1994. Jan Carlzon transformed SAS from a loss making European airline to a profitable one, by emphasising and cultivating a culture that motivated employees to deliver their best through a feeling of ownership and belonging.
The business model, growth plans and the efficiency of the airline will however be put to test in the speed with which the AOP is secured, and the way in which the airline’s revenues and fleet grow. Customer satisfaction will be another key performance indicator. Airlines with discipline across departments are the most likely to succeed, just like market leader IndiGo, which has benefitted all three stakeholders: the board, employees, and passengers.
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.”
Vistara, the TATA-SIA joint venture domestic full service airline based out of Delhi will connect Bangalore to Delhi and Mumbai effective 16th June 2015 (tomorrow), with one flight each way, each day. This will coincide with the 159th day of operation of the airline. The airline also doubles the Delhi-Lucknow and back frequency. In the process, the airline will withdraw one service between Mumbai and Ahmedabad (UK968 and UK953), reducing the weekly frequency to 6 from 13.
The Delhi-Lucknow sector is faring well for the airline.
After the addition of the new sectors and withdrawal of flights, Vistara will operate 237 weekly flights with six aircraft connecting 10 cities, deploying a weekly capacity of 35 million ASKs. This is a remarkable growth in just a little over six months of operations.
Of these 35 million ASKs, 21 million are deployed on category 1 (CAT I) routes that connect metros to metros. The remaining are deployed on CAT II routes (connecting ‘neglected’ regions with other cities), CAT IIA routes (connecting cities/towns within neglected regions), and CAT III routes (connecting other cities not included in CAT I, II and IIA). The capacity on CAT II, IIA, III routes are 12%, 2% and 51% of the CAT I capacity, meeting and exceeding the DGCA requirement for capacity deployment on these routes.
The airline’s six aircraft will fly up to 35 flights a day. One of the aircraft rotations fly up to 12:20 hrs, while the Bangalore rotation flies 8:55 hrs. The average aircraft utilisation will settle at 11:14hrs per aircraft per day. Typical turnaround time is 40-45 minutes.
The flight from Bangalore halts at Mumbai for 5:25 hours, sufficient to operate a Mumbai-Goa sector – something the airline isn’t keen on operating now due to the stiff competition on that route. The Delhi-Bangalore flight operates in the morning and the return in the evening, making it very convenient for a Delhi business traveller, but unattractive to a Bangalore based business traveller. For a corporate focussed airline, this sparse service is a surprise. AirAsia India, which caters to the leisure traveller, offers much better frequencies and timings for business travellers based at either city. The airline will increase frequencies on the Bangalore – Delhi sector with the induction of its 7th aircraft.
The airline however offers multiple other connections to Delhi from Bangalore via Mumbai, with the most attractive connection (direct, lowest cost) being featured at the bottom of the list of options. This may need to be corrected to sort by connections, rather than time of departure.
The airline’s target of a 9 aircraft fleet by end of calendar year 2015 still sticks. Two of the aircraft will be fitted with the wireless in-flight entertainment system, which will later be rolled out fleet wide after an evaluation on these two aircraft.
Vistara, which by end of year will be a true full service carrier with the IFE system, is launching a new in-flight menu offering from 1st July. The new menu is derived from the feedback received from customers over the last six months of operation.
The airline is tying up with multiple companies of the TATA group to offer cross-company benefits to customers.
The month of May was the first month of high travel demand (one of the two high domestic demand months in a calendar year) that Vistara witnessed. Load factors at the airline were 69%.
The airline’s relatively low brand awareness may be impacting the airline’s loads and perhaps in part its pricing power. Marketing activities at the airline may need to be stepped up to effectively communicate the benefits of a fairly less known and new product – premium economy, which accounts for 24% of the airline’s seats.
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.
Aero India 2015 is lower in energy than ever. There are no big deals to announce, no big customers to woo. And that reflects in the energy at the show.
On the show front, there is a larger presence of civilian aerobatic teams. The Flying Bulls aerobatic team, the Scandinavian Airshow and the Breitling Wingwalkers, and the Yakovlevs Airshow Aerobatic team. The only other aerobatic team is the Indian Airforce’s Sarang helicopter team.
The Flying Bulls pulled out of the show after two of their aircraft collided mid-air, leading to prop damage to one and wing damage to the other. Incidentally, this was to have been the Flying Bulls’ last airshow on the Zlin 50XL aircraft, as these birds have reached the end of their airframe life.
Civil aircraft on static display includes a Dassault Falcon 7X, Falcon 2000, Pilatus PC-12, Dornier 228NG, Sukhoi Superjet 100, Let L-410 Turbolet, and an Embraer Pheonom 300.
Indoor presence is limited and low key. Original Equipment Manufacturers like UTC Aerospace have a modest stall, while a major airframer like Embraer have neither a stall nor a chalet. Dassault has a large stall, and that is only because of their optimistic outlook of the civilian and military Indian market.
Fly Easy (India), the brand name of a Bangalore based regional airline proposed to be started by ABC Aviation and Training Services Private Limited, has called for applications for positions in ten departments in the company.
The startup-airline company had received its initial NOC (No Objection Certificate) from the aviation ministry on the 18th of January, 2012. This is five days earlier than Air Costa’s first NOC which was issued on the 23rd of January, 2012.
The initial NOC is valid for a period of 18 months, and must be renewed every six months thereafter to maintain its validity. The airline is presently in its third (3rd) renewal, and will have to apply for its fourth (4th) renewal on the 23rd of January 2015.
The airline may apply for its AOP during its 5th renewed NOC period, if all goes as per plan. However, it is uncertain if the airline has sufficient funds to start operations.
The airline reportedly has an authorised capital of INR 12 Crores. This would have been just sufficient (only to meet regulatory requirements, insufficient for operations though) to start an airline with aircraft such as the E170 and E175. However, for an airline that plans to fly the E190s (or heavier aircraft), the regulatory requirement is a minimum paid up capital (not authorized capital) of INR 30 Crores minimum. The airline’s reported authorized capital is not in agreement with the airline’s plans to fly E190 aircraft.
As of today, the airline aims for a regional scheduled operator’s permit for the Southern Region – the most lucrative region for regional operations in the country. Earlier news reports had indicated Guwahati, Amritsar and Surat as ‘priority’ destinations. The airline indicates its plans to have a fleet of Embraer E-190 aircraft. Such aircraft will help any airline tap long, thin markets that are either underserved or virgin. Aircraft with the range and capacity of an Embraer E190 (a little more than 100 seats – 112 in the case of Air Costa) gain prominence in the light of the saturation and focus of/on mature markets – Tier I routes and certain Tier III routes.
The airline’s website is up, and the brand colours, design and theme are perhaps the best amongst startup regional airlines in the country.
The airline company has an office at Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport’s Alpha 3, though the company is registered at Trivandrum, at an area just south-east of Trivandrum international airport.
The airline company has four directors – Rafi Sainulabdeen Mohammed, Rajesh Ebrahimkutty Majidha Beevi, Sanaulla Zulfiqar Ahmed Khan and a ‘Rajesh’.
As per the airline’s website, the CEO is Finn Thaulow. It is uncertain whether he is the CEO or still a CEO-designate. The approximately 60 year old Norwegian CEO was formerly with FlyMe Europe, and Syrian Pearl Airlines. During his tenure as CEO at FlyMe Sweden, the airline, which operated Boeing 737 Classics (-300 & -500), filed for bankruptcy in March 2007. The sudden closure affected numerous passengers who had purchased tickets from the airline.
In 2011, trial against FlyMe was initiated, in which the CEO, Finn Thaulow, along with three others were charged. Finn Thaulow was charged with ‘serious accounting fraud’, as reported by Gotheborg Daily- a Swedish Daily. Reportedly, the four accused ’emptied the company of 40 million kronor in the winter of 2006 through a fictitious transaction involving the purchase of shares in River Don Ltd’. At this moment, we have been unable to establish the result of the trial.
Syrian Pearl Airlines, which was founded in 2008, with Finn as the CEO, started operations in May 2009 with a BAe 146-300. The airline had entered into a ACMI (Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance, Insurance) agreement with Orion Air of Spain, concerning two BAe 146 aircraft, one of which it started operations with. According to the US Department of Commerce, the agreement was a breach of US export regulations. Finn had privately appealed against a temporary denial order (TDO), stating that it was Orion Air’s responsibility for ‘obtaining all necessary licenses and governmental approvals on Orion Air before sending the two BAE 146-300 aircraft to Syria’. The airline ceased operations three months after its commencement, when the lessor Orion Air pulled out due to the US sanctions imposed on it.
Finn Thaulow was on the shortlist for Tarom’s board of directors. Tarom is the flag carrier of Romania.
Prior to FlyME, Finn was the Vice President of Alliances and Corporate partners at SAS Scandinavian Airlines – the flag carrier of Sweden, Norway and Denmark. He was also part of Spanair’s management team. Spanair, which ceased operation in 2012, was a Spanish airline, and a subsidiary of the SAS Group during Finn’s engagement.
Finn has over 25 years of aviation experience, and that may immensely benefit the airline, should it take-off.
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.
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.
Tony, Ratan Tata, Ramadorai, Venkatraman, Mittu, and others from AirAsia celebrating the board’s gathering at ITC Windsor, Bangalore.
Bangalore, the supposed aviation capital of India, and rumoured to eventually become AirAsia’s operational base, will witness something like never before, tomorrow.
The airline, known for its loud and off-beat branding, will mobilize a convoy that will run between Hotel ITC Windsor, and Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport. The 32km drive will see loads of Royal Enfield bullet motorcycles, and an open roof bus which will have Tony (Group CEO, AirAsia), Mittu (CEO, AirAsia India), and few cabin crew waving out to the crowd.
Tony will fly his first ever AirAsia India flight tomorrow, on board i51320 from Bangalore to Goa, scheduled to depart at 15:10 local (IST, GMT + 05:30). Tony Fernandes will fly for the first time to Goa; his parents’ roots trace back to the tourist city.
Tomorrow’s branding will be one of a kind, and will give AirAsia India significant publicity. Ratan Tata, who is at Bangalore meeting AirAsia India employees, may stay away from tomorrow’s stunts, as it is culturally a stark contrast to the ways of the attention shy guy.
Welcome different branding, India. Now everyone can see.
AirAsia India (AAI) took to the skies yesterday, on its first revenue flight, and marks a new chapter in Indian air transport history. The inaugural flight, i5 1320, flew from Bangalore to Goa, with almost all seats filled with excited passengers, guests, and staff.
To the paying customer, who after all is the target of every airline, four things are important, one of which is the in-flight experience, which includes aircraft cleanliness, comfort, in-flight service, and food & beverage options. AirAsia India has got it right from day one; being part of the AirAsia Group really does make all the difference.
Today, AirAsia India is a small player, but with a huge backing. It enjoys the economies of scale, and is set to take on the Indian market by storm.
In this piece, we look into what could make AAI appeal to the passenger, and why it may emerge as the preferred airline.
HAL Airport “went dark" for a few days; GAGAN system goes operational; Aviation Ministry holds “CEO Exchange" discussion with airline and airframe representatives.
HAL Airport (ICAO: VOBG) had slipped into darkness for a few days. The airport, which belongs to HAL (Hindustan Aeronautics Limited) and formerly served as the domestic and international airport in addition to supporting HAL’s and other various DRDO (Defence Research Development Organisation) arms’ test flights, did not support night operations.
A HAL official stated that there was an issue between Airport Authorities of India (AAI) and HAL, which resulted in the temporary “blackout" of night operations, for a “few days”. Runway lights, and apron lights were reportedly* not “available”. As a result, pilots, especially those operating charter and private jets, which usually use HAL airport as it is in the heart of the city, were forced to fly (and plan) to Bangalore’s Kempegowda International Airport (ICAO: VOBL, IATA: BLR) if their arrival or departure was after dusk or before dawn.
During that period, HAL airport was rendered a “Day IFR field" for a while. Had this HAL-AAI issue continued, it would have been a sad state of affairs (or the lack of it at night) for the airport that made Bangalore the “Aviation Capital of India".
Such a move, temporary or permanent, is viewed as retrograde, especially when the country is looking forward to progressing aviation.
A “CEO Exchange" discussion was held at the aviation Ministry (MoCA), today, bringing together high level representatives from IndiGo, SpiceJet, Air Costa, Air India, Go Air, Blue Dart, Boeing, Airbus, Embraer, and ATR, amongst others. The aim was to figure out ways to take aviation to the next level.
However, with the AAI taking actions that affect airfields such as HAL, and flight schools, such as Orient Flight School at Pondicherry, everyday aviation becomes more difficult for operators, and hoping for a step up to the next level is a challenge.
The more progressive face of AAI was seen when the GAGAN system, according to the General Manager, General Manager (CNS) heading the Ground Based Elements of the GAGAN Project at Bangalore, India, Mr. C R Sudhir, “has been put into operation on 14.02.14 at 1000 hrs IST to support RNP0.1 operations in en-route phase of flight over entire Indian Flight Information Region."
This opens up GPS as a primary navigation aid for enroute navigation, allowing for more direct or shorter routes to be introduced in the Indian airspace. This saves fuel, may help increase aircraft utilization, and support higher air traffic density, which can boost passenger traffic if the savings are passed on to passengers. It also can give a boost General Aviation by allowing airplanes to fly lower on airways, as there no longer is a need for higher altitudes to receive land based radio navigation signals.
Mr. Sudhir also stated, “work is on to achieve APV 1/1.5 certification by fourth quarter of this year."
Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (CSIA), Mumbai, (ICAO: VABB IATA: BOM) has something new to boast off, near Terminal 1B and 1A; specifically in the forecourt of the domestic terminal in Santacruz at the Terminal 1B parking area: a new Air Traffic Control tower that was inaugurated on the 18th of October, 2013, but is expected to be operational only by the end of 2013, or early 2014.
The 84-meter tower has been designed by global architectural firm HOK, Hong Kong. While the tower cab will be specifically designed to have a clear line of sight for Air Traffic Controller, providing a visibility of over 5 miles, the G+3 floors below will house infrastructure facilities supporting the tower.
With new systems installed, the new ATC Tower will ease air traffic congestion and increase the efficiency at CSIA, handling 46 flights per hour as against 40 being handled now. Plans are to further support movements of upto 48 per hour.
Once fully operational, the old tower, located very close to runway 14-32, will be demolished to complete the construction of taxiway E10. the new taxiway will help increase movements at the airport.
This tower, for now the tallest in India, will lose its height title to the new 102 meter tall ATC tower at Delhi’s Indra Gandhi International Airport (ICAO: VIDP IATA DEL), which is soon expected to be commissioned. The Delhi ATC tower has been designed by the same architectural firm that designed the ATC at Mumbai, and the extended Terminal 1 at Bangalore International Airport: HOK.
An Air Costa EMB 170 prepares for its test flight at Chennai (14th October 2013)
This article talks of Air Costa’s peculiarities, as well as the costs on a particular sector and the market potential associated with that sector.
Peculiarities and Image-damage
Air Costa’s newspaper advertisement that appeared in leading dailies, on October 13th
Air Costa, which has been making the waves as a regional carrier with many peculiarities, including first class seats, added one more today, by achieving a 0% on time performance, on it’s launch date.
As was conveyed to the media a week ago, and published on their website, Air Costa was to have both launched and inaugurated its services today, by flying the Vijayawada-Bangalore sector. All other sectors have been mentioned as starting from 15th October, 2013.
Air Costa planned to inaugurate its regional air connectivity on the 14th of October, 2013, to coincide with the supposedly auspicious day of Dussehra. The usual 06:45IST departure and 07:45IST arrival was changed to a 10:30IST departure and a 11:30IST arrival to stay clear of a particular inauspicious time of the day.
But to the dismay of many spotters, who made their way to BIAL to catch the Embraer through their lens, it didn’t turn up. Bangalore briefing was contacted, and a spotter was told that there was no flight plan received for an “Air Costa flight 601”.
While start-up hiccups are understandable, calling for a press-meet and then changing plans without notification is operationally acceptable but image-damaging.
We do sincerely hope that this doesn’t reflect the future of an airline that had initially planned for turboprop Q400s and then switched to turbofan Embraer E-Jets (nothing wrong with a switch, as the E-jets opens up much longer routes, but reflects poor homework on the part of the airline), wants to offer low fares but doesn’t have the cabin of a low cost carrier (dual class cabin), publishes routes on its timetable, while the route map misses out those very routes, has been pushing the launch date far too many times, and promises the first flight only to revise that as well.
Sector Costs and Market Potential
How Air Costa is going to manage their costs is uncertain. The Embraer 170 on a 60 minute flight (Vijayawada-Bangalore) consumes, on average, approximately 900 liters of ATF. At the present ATF prices at Bengaluru, and 4% sales tax, this translates to INR 60,000. Including fuel, the operational cost is estimated at a very conservative INR 300,000 – 400,000, which will actually be much higher for a start-up airline. If we are to divide this by the 66 seats on board the airplane (60 economy + 6 first class), this translates to about INR 4,600 – 6,000 per seat, or INR 5,000 – 6,700 per seat neglecting the first class seats. Being regional, seldom will their aircraft fly with a 100% load factor, which further pushes up the cost per seat. It is further unlikely that there will be many takers for the expensive “Economy Plus” seats: the economy seats on an Embrarer are very comfortable, both in pitch and width, and upgrading to a first class seat on a 60-minute flight does not make much sense.
For a flight one month from today, Spicejet’s direct flight from Vijayawada to Bangalore is priced at INR 3,172, all-inclusive, per person. Air India, with an inconvenient stop, offers seats for 3,671 per person, and Jet Airways’ direct flight INR 5,187 per person. However, based on the fact that the Jet Airways’ 08:15 departure is the most convenient, there is a higher demand for that flight. If a person from Vijayawada wishes to wrap up business at Bangalore, in a day, he may pick Air Costa’s early morning 06:45 departure, reach Bangalore at 07:45, reach the heart of the city by 10:00am, wrap up business by 13:30, and pick the only convenient return flight at 16:40. But Air Costa will have to price economy at no less than INR 6,000 per economy seat, to break even at 90% economy-cabin load factor (54 seats), to prevent themselves from bleeding.
Air Costa’s Vijayawada-Bangalore economy all-inclusive fares start at INR 2,284 and progresses through 2,798, 3,323, 6,314 and upward based on demand, but still staying lower than the competition. How this pricing pattern covers operational costs, if ever, will be interesting to observe, as these are inaugural fares priced at INR 9, adding up to the above mentioned figures due to surcharges, fees and taxes.
Air Costa’s Bangalore-Vijayawada and Vijayawada-Bangalore may have the highest passenger loads among all carriers, simply because of the convenient timing, and pricing, if the fares continue to be priced the way they are.
It will be interesting to watch the growth of this regional airline, in the hands of an aviation first timer. You may notice a stark difference between the way Air Costa handles things and the way in which Air Asia India will manage their show.
Karthik Kumar, a 16 year old with a strong passion for aviation, captured an intense photo of an ATR 72 departing Bangalore into a fiery morning sky. The photo is intense, and captures the ingredients that make it picture perfect: The silhouette of a beautiful airplane, the sun, and a golden-orange sky. Anyone can click a photograph, but only an eye for photography coupled with a burning passion for aviation can transform a mere picture into a work of art.
Kudos to the young spotter, whose photos on JetPhotos.net (LINK), Airplane-Pictures.net(LINK) and Airlines.net(LINK) may be viewed by clicking the links.
VT-EHA, the 1981 produced and only Cessna 172 at the school.
Yet another attempt is being made at restarting the operations at GFTS (Government Flying Training School –Jakkur – VOJK-, Bangalore). There have been positive changes: The vacant post of a Chief Flying Instructor (CFI) has been filled up, and an Assistant Flight Instructor (AFI) is employed by the school. GFTS also got a 1981-produced Cessna 172, and along with two mid 1980’s Cessna 152s, has a decent operational fleet size of 3 airplanes. Multi-engine airplanes are planned to be inducted into the fleet.
On the 7th of May, 2013, the flight school witnessed a low-key religious ceremony, marking the revival of flight operations at the field. The flight school has started offering “Joy Rides on Aeroplanes" for a nominal fee. This follows the “joy rides" offered to the public at Mysore, in the October of last year, during Mysore’s peak tourist season: Dusshera.
The school will also train students towards a PPL, and a CPL. The published rates for the Cessna 152 is INR 10,000/hr, and for the Cessna 172 is INR 11,500/hr. The rates are very steep, considering the age (1980s) and equipment (analog cockpit) on board the airplane. At a reputed private flying school, the rate for a new Cessna 172 with a Garmin G1000 glass cockpit is INR 12,500/hr: a lot more value for your money.
In the March of 2011, GFTS had advertised the re-opening of the flight school after 9 long years. That never happened. This time, the school seems to be a lot more serious, but only time will tell if the school really takes to the skies again, and goes beyond joy rides, in doing what it was established for: Flying Training.
And if it does, which is hoped, it will be after 11 long years. The official website may be visited by clicking HERE. The application form, published on 20th May 2013, may be viewed HERE. The school is looking for a Chief Ground Instructor.
Left to Right: VT-EHA (C172), VT-EIB & VT-EMY (C152)
We had two: a great flier, and a great machine. I, the third, captured this amazing man and his beautiful machine in action, at Jakkur airfield.
Nikolai Singh runs the Meghalaya Paragliders Association, and he is the only paraglider pilot recognized by the Indian DGCA. He has a quality important for an aviator: He longs to leave the ground, yet knows his limits. He is constantly aware of what’s important, always keeping safety in mind. Rarely does he say, “let’s push it”, and when he says that, he more than knows what he is doing.
Nikolai has done some amazing work for brands such a Coca Cola, Vodafone (and a lot others; I will need to spend a week with him to document the “Chronicles of Nikolai”), and has had the Election Commission as a client many a time. Laser Flying, Projector Flying, Aerial Surveys, Videography: name it, and he’s done it, all with legal permits that he diligently keeps a record of!
Here are some photos (and a video at the end of this photo-entry) capturing what takes place, in brief, before a non-rigid wings takes you to the skies. Preparation is key; safety is paramount; everything else comes much later down the line. Which is why I felt absolutely comfortable and safe flying with him.
Nikolai runs his Cruiser Powered Paraglider (PPG), minus the wing, on the runway, making sure everything is right.
Once satisfied that all’s well, he positions the not-so-heavy Cruiser on the centreline. Honestly speaking, he doesn’t need a runway: he can take off from almost anywhere that satisfies his safety criteria.
His boys help him with the “de-flated” glider wing, securing the strings to the Cruiser. Nikolai checks every tie, to make sure all is in order.
Nikolai gets in, and straps himself in place. He’s checked everything, and knows he can assure his passenger’s safety.
Nik, strapped in, grabs the stings that he plays with. By deforming the wing, he achieves roll, yaw, and aerodynamic braking.
With the sun, and people he trusts behind him, he ensures the strings are free and good.
The non-rigid para-glider wing is actually more like a “biplane”. The ducts between the upper and the lower surface are responsible for the non-rigid wing to inflate and take shape, when sufficient airflow is available. By kick starting the engines, and applying take off power, the wing inflates, and rises. After that, it is sheer skill and experienced timing that ensures the wing remains up and inflated!
With sufficient airspeed and a well controlled wing, Nikolai takes us up, up and away, flying at between 40-50km/h!
Although the winds were significant, making Nikolai cut short the flight, the ride was smooth! One of the most comfortable air rides I’ve ever had, more comfortable and a lot more fun than that in a jetliner!
Banner, Paraglider, and Motor! Done by Nik for a Vodafone campaign!
I met a dynamic person today, Nikolai. You would find him ordinary at first. Simple, unassuming, humble. But tomorrow, he is going to pull off a feat over Bangalore: flying only 200ft off the ground in his motorized tricycle-cage suspended from a paraglider!
With all the permissions in place, and in radio contact with Bangalore HAL Radar (127.7Mhz), he will be flying with a banner: “Hurry – April 7 is the last day for enrolling to vote". His services are being used by the Election Commission, to increase awareness amongst the city’s stubborn voters.
Imagine: 200ft of pure freedom: the closest you can get to being a bird! All permissions in place!
Tomorrow (April 7th, 2013) morning’s pattern: (takeoff at 07:00 local from Jakkur), head over the flyover in front of Jakkur, to the Chinnaswamy stadium, over M.G. Road, Election Commission Office, over Majestic, City Railway Station, Back on M.G. Road, to Hennur Cross Road, and landing back at Jakkur. The flight will last for between 2 to 3 hours.
The evening flight pattern is yet to be finalised. The day after (April 8th) will see him fly out of Bangalore HAL airport. The pattern remains undecided.
200ft over a city: That’s how it’ll appear to him tomorrow when he flies over Bangalore!
So, get out for a not-so-normal Sunday, to spot an aviator: Nik from the Meghalaya Paragliding Association! A flight was planned today evening, but HAL issued a weather forecast that Nik laughed at! Nik has landed and taken off in crazy winds: significant crosswinds, which most turn white-knuckled in, but he confidently flies into!
He will not be foot launching, but will be flying in a Cruiser Powered Para Glider (similar to the one in the image on the left)
*Full width images from the Meghalaya Paragliding Association, thumbnail photo shows Nik (right) with Radio One RJ Prithvi (Left).