IndiGo performed well in Q3’16, but was it the airline’s best quarter in the fiscal in terms of performance? We dive into the numbers, comparing Q3’16 with three other quarters, while forecasting the airline’s performance in Q4’16 – the current quarter.
In the quarter ending December 2014 (Q3FY’15 – India), AirAsia India, an associate of AirAsia due to the latter’s share of 49% in the India venture, posted a net loss of INR 21.7 Crores.
In the same quarter, spanning the months of October, November, and December 2014, the airline faced a significant challenge. The airline was faced with a shortage of senior cabin crew, effects of which were largely seen in November and December – very significant delays of many flights (up to 5 hours and more) and the cancellation of some. The airline was forced to play around with its schedules to match the flight duty time limitations (FDTL) of its senior crew, which resulted in the delays and cancellations.
Cancellations at AirAsia India rose from 0% in October to 2.65% in November, and dipped to 1.92% in December. In the quarter, a total of 4,019 passengers were affected by delays more than two hours (2% of the passengers carried in the quarter), and 513 passengers were affected by cancellations (0.2% of the passengers carried in the quarter), as per DGCA data.
In the quarter, the airline flew a total of 201,000 passengers, out of 253,852 seats, resulting in a load factor of 79.2% for the quarter. In the month of November, passengers carried dropped to 61,000, down 5,000 passengers compared to October, while load factors increased to 79.8%, up from 76.2% in October, perhaps indicating that the loads in November were driven by servicing affected passengers.
December is a month of high domestic travel demand. December 2014 was AirAsia India’s first month of operations in a high demand season, which resulted in domestic load factors rising to 81.5% – its highest since start of operations. Considering that the target customers for AirAsia India are leisure travellers, AirAisa India was expected to have recorded higher load factors. This figure was the lowest among all airlines in India for the month, either due to the airline’s limited network or an image that was impacted by the high number of cancellations and delays that continued into December.
AirAsia India ended the quarter with a fleet of 3 Airbus A320 aircraft, of which two are used (from AirAsia Malaysia), and one is new (directly received from Toulouse). The third aircraft entered commercial operations on 18th December 2014.
In the quarter, the airline added only one destination to its network – Pune, on the 17th of December 2014, while doubling the frequency on the Bangalore-Jaipur sector, and halving the Bangalore-Chennai frequency. The airline presently services Chennai, Cochin, Goa, Chandigarh, Jaipur, and Pune from Bangalore, and Jaipur from Pune.
As per AirAsia, AirAsia India will receive just three additional aircraft in the year 2015, raising its total fleet to just six (6) aircraft by the close of calendar year 2015. All three aircraft will be used (older) airplanes from AirAsia Malaysia. In the same year, the group will receive only five new airplanes from Airbus, of which one will be for Malaysia AirAsia, two for Phillipines AirAsia, and two for Japan AirAsia which presently has no aircraft.
AirAsia India is forecasted to have a load factor of 81% in Q4 FY’15 (Q1 CY 2015). This may seem difficult considering the airline is entering another lean season, and its past performance in both lean and peak seasons hasn’t been encouraging enough to support this forecast.
However, one tactic that the group may resort to is to feed traffic from Malaysia AirAsia and Thai AirAsia into Bangalore, which can then be picked up by AirAsia India to offer more connections in India, such as Jaipur, Chandigarh and Goa to passengers of the other two AirAsia associate airlines.
Says Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO, “For a new airline, the AirAsia brand is strong in India and the load factor of 80% recorded in 4Q14 speaks for itself. Looking at the growth potential there, an additional aircraft was added in India during the reported quarter hence it ended the year with a total of 3 aircraft. Though the associate, due to the local regulations, is only allowed to operate domestic routes in its first five years of operations, AAI has the advantage of getting traffic feed from MAA and TAA which also flies in to AAI’s hub in Bangalore. This differentiates AAI from its competitors."
AirAsia’s A320NEOs will be delivered only at the end of calendar year 2016. Further, in 2015 and the next few years, the group will not be taking in large number of aircraft every year like before, in an attempt to preserve cash.
For the quarter, Thai AirAsia was the only associate to record a net profit. Indonesia AirAsia, Malaysia AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, AirAsia Japan and AirAsia India recorded net losses. Indonesia AirAsia and Malaysia AirAsia however recorded operating profits.
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.
In this piece, we look into the significance of the E-Jets, particularly the 100 seat E-190, and the need for the Brazilian manufacturer’s launch of the upgraded, “Second generation” E-Jets.
The Embraer E-Jets: Making Regional Sense.
Bombardier stepped into the 70 seat jet space with the introduction of its CRJ700 into commercial operations in 2001, with Brit Air. 3 years later, Embraer introduced its 70 seat jet to commercial operations, with LOT Polish airlines. Till date, 192 Embraer E-170s have been sold, while the 70 seat CRJ700 has sold 347 airplanes.
One Embraer regional jet, that has been very well received, is the 100 seat Embraer 190, which, till date, has raked up 560 orders. No other Bombardier 70+ seat aircraft, including the C-Series has managed to touch those numbers, yet.
The Embraer 190 makes absolute sense. The typical single class cabin of the airplane accommodates 100 passengers comfortably. JetBlue, the largest operator of the E-190 with 59 aircraft, complements its Airbus A320 fleet of 129 aircraft. Jet Blue’s A320s are fitted with 150 seats.
Way back in 2003, when JetBlue had an all-Airbus A320 fleet and the cabins had 156 seats, the break-even load factor (BELF), as published by the airline, was around 72%, corresponding to 112 seats. To open up more routes which would have a demand less than this BELF, the 100 seat Embraer 190 was introduced in 2005. In the light of its reduced A320 seating, and spiralling fuel prices, the airline’s A320’s BELF has only gone up, further stressing the need for the Embraer 190.
Embraer acknowledges that a big advantage for E-Jet operators today is their ability to use the aircraft to “right-size” in lower-density markets.
But also acknowledged in 2010 was the realisation that if Airbus or Boeing re-engine their narrowbodies, and achieve better costs per trip, the advantage enjoyed by the E-Jets would disappear.
The upgrade saga
This left only two options for Embraer: Introduce a clean-sheet airplane that competes with Airbus and Boeing’s popular narrowbody families-A320 and 737-an idea that has played with Embraer since 2009; or do something to the existing offering to retain the regional jet family’s attractiveness to operators.
Late 2011, Embraer formally confirmed its decision to abandon the development of a competing airplane (which otherwise would have put 4 players in the coveted segment, including Bombardier with its C-Series), and instead focus on enhancing the value of the Embraer 170 and 190 families through a possible stretch and a definite re-engine, at an estimated program cost of US$1.7 billion. This was the outcome of Boeing announcing the delivery of the 737Max in 2017: a period too short for Embraer to both hold its grip on the market with its existing offering while developing a competing airliner. This also reflects the industry’s lower appetite for risk.
Embraer started working with E-Jet customers to define the performance goals and technical characteristics of the new aircraft family. One of the considerations was a composite airframe. Early 2012, Air Lease Corp advised Embraer to stretch the Embraer E-190 by 1 row (4 seats) and the E-195 by 2-3 rows (8-12 seats). The aim was to add capacity to compete with the CS100, while allowing for pricing flexibility in the light of much lower development costs associated with an airplane upgrade rather than a clean sheet design. Adding to this advantage is the huge customer base of Embarer’s E-Jets. A customer would prefer an upgrade “within the aircraft family" for near-seamless operational integration, rather than an all-new aircraft.
Embraer claims to be not just re-engining, but investing heavily to achieve the efficiency of a clean-sheet design. In January 2013, Embraer selected the Pratt and Whitney Geared Turbofan PW1000G series to power the second generation E170 and E190/E195 aircraft, which it calls the “E-Jet E2 family". The wings will feature a higher aspect ratio, longer wingspan, and raked wing tips instead of winglets. The landing gear will be lengthened to accommodate the larger engines, and the flight deck will feature the Honeywell’s Primus Epic™ 2 advanced integrated avionics system with large landscape displays, advanced graphics capabilities, and Honeywell’s Next Generation Flight Management System (NGFMS). The new airplanes will be 100% fly-by-wire, unlike the in-production E-Jets.
Unlike the C-Series, the wings for the E-Jet E2 are all metal, as, according to Embraer, composites aren’t cost-effective for such-sized airplanes. Embarer’s late announcement of the selection of the geared turbofan actually stands in its favour: the airframer benefits from Pratt and Whitney’s work on the smaller PW1200G for the Mitsubishi Regional Jet (MRJ), and the larger, mature PW1500G for the C-Series, both of which engine families are almost identical to those being offered for the E-Jets.: The PW1700G for the E175-E2 and the larger PW1900G for the E190/195-E2.
The reason to select the Geared Turbofan is not just the gear in the fan, which optimises fan speeds for greater efficiencies. The significant thermal margins available can allow for future engine thrust upgrades, allowing for further aircraft upgrades with the same engine family.
Plane Facts & 4-cast
The E-175 E2 can seat 88 passengers in a single class, in a comfortable 31" seat pitch. The in-production E-175 can seat only 78 passengers, comfortably, and 88 with an undesirable 29" seat pitch.
The E-190-E2, which is poised to continue the legacy of the well-performing in production E-190, comfortably seats an additional 6 passengers in a uniform 31" seat pitch. The existing E-190 can seat 114 passengers, but with a compromised seating comfort. The fuel efficiencies of the E-190-E2 lend it more range than the E-190.
The E-195-E2 seats 132 passengers in a uniform 31" seat pitch. The In-production E-195 can seat no more than 124 passengers in high capacity, and 116 in single class (with 31% of the seats featuring a 32" pitch, and 69% featuring a 31" pitch). Sometime in 2009, Embraer had studied an aircraft of such capacity, dubbed the E-195X, which would have used the same engines as the E-195. The concept was eventually dropped in 2010 the light of degraded aircraft performance in the absence of a re-engine.
Owing to its poor sales and the drop in demand for 70 seat jets, the E-170 won’t be re-engined.
Embraer’s best bet is on the 106 seat E-190-E2, and hence is focusing all its energy in targeting an entry-into-service (EIS) of mid-2018. The E-195-E2 will follow in 2019, and the E175-E2 in 2020.
Embraer foresees a demand for 6,400 commercial jets with capacity of up to 130 seats, over the next 20 years. With more than 1,200 E-Jets orders, Embraer has achieved a 42% market share in its segment. While Embraer will aggressively compete with Bombardier’s CS100, its present and future E-Jet offering has, and will eclipse Bombardier’s present line up of the CRJ family: CRJ700, CRJ900 and the CRJ1000, all three now marketed with the NextGen suffixes. Embraer is poised to grab a large share of that forecasted market.
*This section builds on research for a comprehensive article on the C-Series by The Flying Engineer.