IndiGo was supposed to have been the second airline to receive the Airbus A320 neo. Despite the delay, IndiGo will still be the first Indian airline to receive the A320 neos, followed by Go Air. Deliveries to IndiGo are likely to happen in the summer of this year. Lufthansa, the first customer of the variant, is already operating the neo albeit short routes within Germany, between Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and Berlin.
Seat maps published by Lufthansa allow one to compare the A320’s cabin with the A320 neo’s cabin. Both cabins are of identical length, but have a key difference in the layout: The aft two lavatories are moved to the rear bulkhead, reducing galley space, and making space for one extra row of seats (see the image on top). Lufthansa’s A320ceos has 168 seats in its cabin (across 2 classes), while the A320 neo with the rearranged ‘SpaceFlex’ cabin fits 180 seats (across 2 classes), as shown below.
In the case of IndiGo and GoAir’s A320 neos, the cabin will be fitted with 186 seats (single class), 6 more than the present 180 seats fit in the cabin. Moving the lavatories towards the rear bulkhead, and eating into the galley space makes sense for low cost carriers, as the quantum of uplifted food is lesser than full service carriers. But the last row will be where the lavatories were earlier located.
The issue is not about sitting where the lavatories once were, but that the last row (which will be identified as row 31 on IndiGo and GoAir, and row 32 on all other airlines that skip the number ’13’ when identifying rows) will have no window, and little to no recline. This will, undoubtedly, become the least preferred row on the entire aircraft. To make things a bit more uncomfortable, the walls start moving inwards at that row, part of the taper of the aft fuselage.
Seat pitch on the 186 seat A320s will remain unaffected at 28/29 inches. But remember to keep an eye out for windowless row 31 and above.
Three days after securing its Air Operator Permit (AOP), Vistara opened for bookings, for flights 9th January 2015 onward. This marks the start of commercial operations in Q4 FY2014-15, a period which is traditionally the second weakest season for Indian domestic travel.
The airline places itself as a full service carrier (FSC), with a three class cabin.
Rows 1 – 4 feature a four abreast Business Class Cabin with 16 seats. The seats sport a 42-inch seat pitch, with a 7-inch recline. Business class passengers will be pampered with a meal service with fine linens and bone china tableware. Meal options – for all classes – are shown on the left. Business class passengers will have a separate check-in counter at airports. Passengers are entitled to 30kgs check in and 7kgs carry-on baggage. Fares are in two categories – Business Flexi and Business Saver, with the expensive former waiving off a change fee while allowing the ticket to be valid for 12 months.
Rows 5 – 10 feature a six abreast Premium EconomyClass Cabin with 36 seats. The seats sport a 33-inch seat pitch, with a 4.5-inch recline. This cabin section includes two emergency exits at rows 9 and 10. These rows offer a 36 inch legroom, but the recline is unavailable on row 9 and perhaps restricted on row 10 due to the cabin partition wall right behind. Passengers are entitled to food and beverage. Premier Economy class passengers will have a separate check-in counter at airports. Passengers are entitled to 20kgs check in and 7kgs carry-on baggage Fares are in two categories – Premium Flexi and Premium Saver, with the expensive former waiving off a change fee while allowing the ticket to be valid for 12 months.
Rows 11 – 27 feature a six abreast Economy Class Cabin with 96 seats. There are only 16 rows in this section, but the row numbering skips the number ’13’, misleading one to believe there are 17 rows. The seats sport a 30-inch seat pitch, with a 3.5-inch recline. The seat thickness will determine the actual legroom available. For example. IndiGo’s 29-inch seat pitch with its ultra slim dragonfly seats are thin enough to offer the equivalent of a 31-inch seat pitch legroom with standard seats. Passengers are entitled to food and beverage. Economy class passengers will have a separate check-in counter at airports. Passengers are entitled to 15kgs check in and 7kgs carry-on baggage Fares are in two categories – Economy Flexi, Economy Saver, and Economy Super Saver, with the expensive first option waiving off a change fee while allowing the ticket to be valid for 12 months.
In addition, passengers who have web-checked in will have a separate counter to drop off check-in baggage. The airline also offers an auto check in service, in which if the passenger has not self checked-in at 4 hours prior to scheduled departure time, the airline will auto check the passenger on the flight and send the boarding pass via SMS or email.
In total, every aircraft is configured with 148 seats.
The lower number of passengers and dedicated counters may check in a smooth experience. Being a FSC, load factors may hover around the 75% range, leading to just 111 passengers per flight, on average – possibly a smooth boarding experience.
Vistara’s IATA code is ‘UK’. On the first day of Operations – Friday, the 9th, January 2015, the airline will operate only on the Mumbai-Delhi and return sectors. Vistara’s regular flight numbers are expected to start with ‘9’. However, on January 9th, the airline will operate two flights to Mumbai from Delhi and one flight to Delhi from Mumbai, all with special flight numbers – 895, 890, and 228. Flights to and from Ahmadabad will commence the next day, on the 10th of January. With this, one aircraft will be stationed at Mumbai.
The first commercial flight will be operated as UK890, which Departs Delhi at 12:30IST and arrives at Mumbai at 14:45 IST.
The airline will commence operations with two aircraft, both Airbus A320-232SL, registered VT-TTB and VT-TTC. The airline will operate the following patterns from 10th January, with the first pattern for an aircraft out of Mumbai and the second for an aircraft out of Delhi. The pattern holds good for most days, with certain changes on Sunday. Reportedly, the pattern will run till 15th February 2015.
The airline will operate from Terminal 2 of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, and Terminal 3 of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Air Costa yesterday received the approval from the DCGA to fly the Embraer E190s. Air Costa is the first airline in the history of Indian aviation to operate Embraer E190s. The airline started operations in October 2013 with two Embraer E170s.
The two Embraer ERJ E190s, with manufacturer serial numbers 593 and 608, registered VT-LBR, VT-LVR respectively, were delivered to Air Costa towards the second half of December 2013, and are leased from GECAS. However, the approval to fly the E190s arrived only 3 months later, due to exhaustive DGCA paperwork, some of which related to getting the aircraft type approved in India. The airplanes have been parked at Hyderabad-Shamshabad’s Rajiv Gandhi International (ICAO: VOHS IATA: HYD).
The two Embraer E190s are expected to be deployed into commercial service in the first week of April, and will fly the longer routes in the approved summer schedule. Since the ERJ 190’s license endorsement, as recognized by the DGCA, is “EMB170”, and common with the ERJ 170, pilots in the airline can fly both aircraft variants.
The E190s will be based at Chennai, and will be deployed on the following sectors: Chennai-Ahmadabad, Ahmadabad-Bangalore, Bangalore-Jaipur, Jaipur-Hyderabad, Hyderabad-Chennai, Chennai-Bangalore, Bangalore-Vishakhapatnam, Vishakhapatnam – Hyderabad.
Each aircraft will start operations at 0600hrs IST, and fly till 2340hrs IST, accumulating a total of 29 block hours per day over 18 flights, representing 56% of the entire fleet’s utilization. The E190s will be utilized approximately 30% more than the E170.
The Embraer E190s are an all-economy four abreast-single aisle cabin, with 112 seats laid out over 28 rows, with a 29/30-inch seat pitch (some seats will have a comfortable pitch of 30 inches, while the others will have 29 inches). Each of the seats are as wide as 18.25 inches, armrest-armrest, which is a good 1.25inches wider (and more comfortable) than the seats on SpiceJet’s Boeing 737s, and IndiGo, GoAir and Air Asia India’s Airbus A320s, which are all 17 inches wide. In addition, there are no middle seats: only either window or aisle, making the overall experience very comfortable. This comfort will make the airline’s product a preferred one, among regional airlines, today.
The 112 seat E-190 has 62% the capacity of an Airbus A320, which the airline feels is the right capacity for the markets they serve today. Another 4 E190s are expected to join the fleet this year.
Air Costa has been flying the E-170s with load factors greater than 70%.
Almost a week after its first flight, and less than a week ago, Air Asia India’s Airbus first A320, to be registered as VT-ATF, returned to Toulouse from Hamburg on 26th February 2014, after having its cabin fitted with seats, and other interiors.
The cabin is all economy, with 180 seats, similar to IndiGo’s cabin layout.
In a move to keep its staff happy, IndiGo recently hiked the pay of its staff, including those of its captains, senior first officers, first officers, junior first officers, as well as cabin crew. While a captain’s gross pay has reportedly been hiked in the range of 15%, the cabin crew’s pay has close to doubled.
The salary hike is effective from the month of December, and serves to bring cheers to crew members who have, reportedly and apparently, felt that they have given the company their all, working to help push the airline to profits, but haven’t received a hike for “so many years".
Many approachable, polite and fair-playing management pilots have apparently resigned, to the dismay of many pilots.
An IndiGo management pilot has moved to Air Asia India, making him the first IndiGo pilot to join the flight deck staff at the regional low cost carrier that is yet to start domestic operations in India.
“Leading" the change
IndiGo is a well performing airline, if one is to look at their load factors (the highest average in the country), their fleet, and the reported profits. All is well till competition sets in. Aditya Ghosh, CEO of IndiGo, had told Business Standard, “I don’t lose sleep over AirAsia".
But there may be reason. Not certain, but strong, to lose sleep. Many pilots are willing to accept INR 20,000-30,000 lower gross pay per month, if they are promised a better work culture, in line with what Air Asia offers today, to its staff. Say many, if offered the same or even a slightly lesser salary, they’re willing to leave their airline for Air Asia, if they feel they can go to work happy.
To many line captains, happiness is worth more than approximately INR 4,00,000 per year. Finally, happiness has a price tag.
Aditya Ghosh is known to be dynamic. He is known to interact freely with his employees, and he set off a new trend in the Indian airline industry: being funny, sometimes witty, and doing many things pleasingly different.
With Mittu Chandilya stepping in as the face of Air Asia India, the spotlight is now shared and slowly shifting to an impressive former model who is seen with sport cars; among young students at universities of repute; playing cricket with his staff; personally attending certain cabin crew selections; first hand observing operations at the airline; promoting causes; and importantly, running his own Facebook page for fans to follow. While Aditya Ghosh’s spotlight-shyness is respected, Mittu’s emergence into the spotlight, not necessarily to talk about himself, sets the latter apart.
Infact, it propels Mittu’s image, and consequently the airline’s image, to a new level: run by confident, open men who love not fun, but loads of it, while not compromising on what matters: work, safety, and the people who run the airline. Whether this will actually translate into how the airline is run is hard to tell, yet, but most are willing to take the chance.
Feel many pilots: “ I’d want to work for, or be led by a dynamic, impressive man. Someone like Mittu Chandilya. He’s inspirational."
It’s not just the money. It’s the promise of a satisfying, fair, and exciting work culture coupled with the dynamism of a CEO who’s a natural in pleasing and leading, possibly reflecting what the airline may turn out to be. Ofcourse, a lot goes into the operational success of an airline, but small yet important things like an impressive leader, and good work culture can help with staff loyalty, something which is definitely part of any company’s definition of success.
Airbus states that the assembly of MSN5, the fifth and final member of the A350 XWB flight test fleet in the test flight campaign is now underway with the fuselage joining process. This follows the recent arrival of the three fuselage sections at the A350 XWB final assembly line (FAL) in Toulouse, France.
MSN5 is the second of the A350 flight test aircraft that will feature a passenger cabin. MSN 2 and MSN 5 will have the cabin fitted, where Airbus will put passengers on board, with cabin crew. It is for the first time in the history of Airbus that so early in the campaign 2 aircraft have been dedicated to the cabin. Earlier, aircraft would be dedicated about 2 months before the entry into service. Associated with that are delays, a lot of complaints from passengers, and a difficulty of entry into service. This was witnessed in the A320 and the A340 programs.
This aircraft will fly for the first time in Spring 2014 and will be used essentially to perform cabin related flight tests. It will also participate in the Early Long Flights where the “passengers" are Airbus employees. This allows the cabin and related systems to be submitted to near realistic operations in order to ensure a mature cabin at entry into service. In addition, MSN5 will carry out Route Proving flights to demonstrate to the certification authorities that the aircraft performs perfectly in airport operations.
To date the two A350 XWB test aircraft, MSN1 and MSN3 have clocked up over 500 flight test hours in more than 100 test flights. The A350 XWB has already won more than 760 firm orders from 39 customers worldwide. First delivery will be to Qatar Airways in the second half of 2014.
3. Embraer 190STD: MSN 593, leased from GECAS, yet to be registered in India.
4. Embraer 190AR: MSN 608, leased from GECAS, yet to be registered in India.
The 170AR version has a range of about 2,200NM with 66 passengers. The cabin of the two E-170ARs are dual class: 6 first class seats with a luxurious 40″ seat pitch and 20″ seat width, and 60 economy seats with a very comfortable 32″ seat pitch and 18.25″ seat width.
The Two E-170s are about 3years 7 months old, and were formerly flying for Gulf Air. The E-190s, however, seem to be new airplanes.
The E-190s may also have a dual class cabin: 8 first class seats with a luxurious 38″ seat pitch and 20″ seat width, and 88 economy seats with a comfortable 31″ seat pitch and 18.25″ seat width. The 190STD has a range of about 2000NM with 96 passengers, and the 190AR, with the same payload, has a range of about 2,500NM.
The video shows The Embrarer E-190, MSN 608, which was originally intended to be leased by Estonian Air from GECAS. However, the carrier didn’t take the airplane, and the airplane now has a new operator: Air Costa.
Interestingly, Paramount Airways, had leased its two Embraer E-170s from ECC Leasing and its 3 E-175s from GECAS.
Air Costa’s all-inclusive “Economy” airfare from Vijayawada to Bangalore is INR 2,798. In contrast, the lowest available airfare on the same day, from competing carriers, is INR 6,242 (Air India, one stop). The only other direct flight is operated by Jet Airways on their ATR-72, and this is priced at INR 10,200.
The “Economy Plus”, which essentially buys you one of the 6 first class seats on the airplane, is priced at INR 11,876, all inclusive.
Air Costa’s Vijayawada to Bangalore is a 1 hour flight direct flight, departing at 0645IST and landing at 0745IST.
At the moment, bookings are open only till the 26th of October, 2013 (2 weeks from the scheduled first flight: 14th October 2013). The published airfares could possibly be for a “promotional” period.
Finally, it’s official. Regional carrier Air Costa will commence operations from the 14th of October, 2013. The regional airline, Andhra Pradesh’s first, will connect Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Jaipur and Ahmedabad.
Schedules for the flights are already published.
The Management includes the Chairman, Lingamaneni Ramesh; the CEO, Captain K.N. Babu; and the Director of Operations, Captain Lila Singh Aulakh. Lila Singh Aulakh was formerly a line pilot with Air India on the Boeing 747-400s.
Air Costa will start its operations with two Embraer E-170 airplanes (VT-LNR and VT-LSR). The E-170s are the LR version, capable to carrying 78 passengers across 1800NM. The inaugural flight will be from Vijayawada to Bangalore, which departs at 1030 IST and is expected to land at 1130 IST. This is a deviation from their schedule which is a 0645IST departure and a 0745IST arrival at Bangalore.
A third airplane, an Embraer E190 serial number 593, painted in Air Costa’s colors was to have been delivered to the airline, but whereabouts of the aircraft are unknown after being last spotted in Spain.
The Embraer 170s are, surprisingly, configured as a two-class cabin, to seat 6 First Class and 60 Economy Class. Uncertainty exists on the airline’s identity: a low cost or a low fare airline.
The airline is based at Vijayawada but maintenance facilities shall be at Chennai, until a planned MRO facility at Vijayawada’s Gannavaram Airport (ICAO: VOBZ, IATA: VGA) is setup, which is expected to take 1.5 years. Visakhapatnam’s and Vijayawada’s airports are strategic as they link the coastal region of Andhra Pradesh with other parts of the country. Vijayawada is expected to rise to greater prominence in the light of the breakup of Andhra Pradesh into smaller states.
On the 21st of September, 2013, the state government decided to expand and improve infrastructure facilities at the Vijayawada airport at a cost of INR 28 Million. 492 acres of land are expected to be acquired, near the airport.
Air Costa expects to grow operations to 14 routes, and 25 destinations by 2015, and 25 aircraft by 2018. Reportedly, the airline has about 300 employees including foreign pilots and engineers.