Air Costa, which used to operate 32 daily flights to 9 destinations, will be operating 18 flights to 8 destinations starting today, 16th November, till 26th November, as the airline’s fleet temporarily reduces to just 2 aircraft – one 67 seat Embraer E170 and one 112 seat Embraer E190. No sale of flights on one of the patterns (MAA-HYD-VTZ-BLR-VTZ-HYD-MAA-JAI-MAA) was noticed on the airline’s website. This leads to VTZ not being temporarily served by Air Costa.
VT-LSR, one of the two Embraer E170s, has been pulled out of operations due to the planned return of the aircraft to its lessor. VT-LBR, one of the two Embraer E190s, operated a special Chennai-Bengaluru flight LB709 (the first 7xx flight number for the airline), which is a ferry flight turned commercial flight, before heading off for scheduled maintenance to Jordan via Muscat. This leaves only two airplanes – VT-LNR (E170) and VT-LVR (E190) in the active fleet in the short term.
In contrast to Air Costa cancelling flights, AirAsia India, which presently has one of its Airbus A320 airplanes (VT-BLR) at Hyderabad for scheduled maintenance (Since 1st November), has not allowed operations to be impacted. The airline, which recently received its 6th aircraft (VT-APJ), continues to fly 5 patterns with 5 active aircraft. VT-BLR is expected to return from maintenance today to allow VT-APJ to fly to Delhi to operate additional frequencies on existing routes, from tomorrow. (Edit: VT-BLR flew to Delhi late this morning, and will take on Delhi flights from tomorrow).
SpiceJet’s Boeing 737-800 MSN 37366 earlier registered as VT-SGU had entered storage in the July of 2014. The aircraft, leased from BBAM, was recently painted in the colors of Pegasus Airlines, and will soon be flown off from Hyderabad Shamshabad to operate for the Turkish airline.
A very significant number of SpiceJet’s Boeing 737s were leased from BBAM, most of which have been returned to the lessor. BBAM, which began as Babcock & Brown Aircraft Management remains the largest lessor for SpiceJet, with five aircraft – VT SGG/SGH/SGV & SGQ – all four Boeing 737-800s, and VT-SPU – a Boeing 737-900.
Recent media reports pointed to BBAM taking SpiceJet to court for the de-registration of the five 737s. The airline issued a statement on 25th March ststing, “Discussions have been ongoing with the lessors for an amicable settlement.SpiceJetfully expects the matter will be resolved shortly and positively with the lessors, and there will be no grounding of aircraft or disruption of operations.”
All five BBAM aircraft are still operating flights for the airline.
SpiceJet today flies an active fleet of 17 Boeing 737s, which includes only one 737-900 leased from BBAM. The other lessors are Air Lease Corporation (ALC), Ansett Worldwide Aviation Services (AWAS), Bank of China Aviation (BOC), Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC), and Mitsubishi Corporation Aviation Partners (MCAP).
SpiceJet owns all its fifteen Bombardier Q400s.
GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS), another prominent lessor, had towards the end 2014 pulled out its five Boeing 737s, four of which are parked at Seletar Airport, Singapore- VT-SZE/F/G/H, all of which have been de-registered.
As per the airline’s statement on the 20th of March, 2015, “SpiceJet is also in the process of adding more aircraft to the fleet and expects to add 8-9 Boeings starting in April to take the active Boeing fleet to 25-26 aircraft in the summer, in addition to the 15 Bombardier Q400 aircraft that are owned by SpiceJet. SpiceJet will continue to add more aircraft in the second half of the year to take the Boeing fleet up to 34-35 aircraft by the end of the year.”
It is believed that some of the 737s to come will be wet leased.
In the quarter ending December 2014 (Q3FY’15 – India), AirAsia India, an associate of AirAsia due to the latter’s share of 49% in the India venture, posted a net loss of INR 21.7 Crores.
In the same quarter, spanning the months of October, November, and December 2014, the airline faced a significant challenge. The airline was faced with a shortage of senior cabin crew, effects of which were largely seen in November and December – very significant delays of many flights (up to 5 hours and more) and the cancellation of some. The airline was forced to play around with its schedules to match the flight duty time limitations (FDTL) of its senior crew, which resulted in the delays and cancellations.
Cancellations at AirAsia India rose from 0% in October to 2.65% in November, and dipped to 1.92% in December. In the quarter, a total of 4,019 passengers were affected by delays more than two hours (2% of the passengers carried in the quarter), and 513 passengers were affected by cancellations (0.2% of the passengers carried in the quarter), as per DGCA data.
In the quarter, the airline flew a total of 201,000 passengers, out of 253,852 seats, resulting in a load factor of 79.2% for the quarter. In the month of November, passengers carried dropped to 61,000, down 5,000 passengers compared to October, while load factors increased to 79.8%, up from 76.2% in October, perhaps indicating that the loads in November were driven by servicing affected passengers.
December is a month of high domestic travel demand. December 2014 was AirAsia India’s first month of operations in a high demand season, which resulted in domestic load factors rising to 81.5% – its highest since start of operations. Considering that the target customers for AirAsia India are leisure travellers, AirAisa India was expected to have recorded higher load factors. This figure was the lowest among all airlines in India for the month, either due to the airline’s limited network or an image that was impacted by the high number of cancellations and delays that continued into December.
AirAsia India ended the quarter with a fleet of 3 Airbus A320 aircraft, of which two are used (from AirAsia Malaysia), and one is new (directly received from Toulouse). The third aircraft entered commercial operations on 18th December 2014.
In the quarter, the airline added only one destination to its network – Pune, on the 17th of December 2014, while doubling the frequency on the Bangalore-Jaipur sector, and halving the Bangalore-Chennai frequency. The airline presently services Chennai, Cochin, Goa, Chandigarh, Jaipur, and Pune from Bangalore, and Jaipur from Pune.
As per AirAsia, AirAsia India will receive just three additional aircraft in the year 2015, raising its total fleet to just six (6) aircraft by the close of calendar year 2015. All three aircraft will be used (older) airplanes from AirAsia Malaysia. In the same year, the group will receive only five new airplanes from Airbus, of which one will be for Malaysia AirAsia, two for Phillipines AirAsia, and two for Japan AirAsia which presently has no aircraft.
AirAsia India is forecasted to have a load factor of 81% in Q4 FY’15 (Q1 CY 2015). This may seem difficult considering the airline is entering another lean season, and its past performance in both lean and peak seasons hasn’t been encouraging enough to support this forecast.
However, one tactic that the group may resort to is to feed traffic from Malaysia AirAsia and Thai AirAsia into Bangalore, which can then be picked up by AirAsia India to offer more connections in India, such as Jaipur, Chandigarh and Goa to passengers of the other two AirAsia associate airlines.
Says Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO, “For a new airline, the AirAsia brand is strong in India and the load factor of 80% recorded in 4Q14 speaks for itself. Looking at the growth potential there, an additional aircraft was added in India during the reported quarter hence it ended the year with a total of 3 aircraft. Though the associate, due to the local regulations, is only allowed to operate domestic routes in its first five years of operations, AAI has the advantage of getting traffic feed from MAA and TAA which also flies in to AAI’s hub in Bangalore. This differentiates AAI from its competitors."
AirAsia’s A320NEOs will be delivered only at the end of calendar year 2016. Further, in 2015 and the next few years, the group will not be taking in large number of aircraft every year like before, in an attempt to preserve cash.
For the quarter, Thai AirAsia was the only associate to record a net profit. Indonesia AirAsia, Malaysia AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, AirAsia Japan and AirAsia India recorded net losses. Indonesia AirAsia and Malaysia AirAsia however recorded operating profits.
Air Asia’s first aircraft may not arrive before March 2nd 2014. How many pilots the airline has, and what crew who switch airlines look for. Operations in Summer. This, and more, below.
Air Asia India had intended, in the October of 2013, to start operations with MSN 5200, an Airbus A320 now flying for Indonesia Air Asia as PK-AZI, and was formerly flying with Air Asia Japan. The timing of the closure of Air Asia Japan (October 2013), and the starting of Air Asia India, intended in the December of 2013, was coincidental.
But on 20th January, 2014, the DGCA issued a public notice, stating, “In order to comply with the requirements of Schedule Xl of Aircraft Rules 1937, a notice is hereby given to the public and all the persons likely to be affected by the grant of this permit to M/s Air Asia (lndia) Pvt. Ltd. for the purpose of providing scheduled air transport services in lndia, submit their objections or suggestions, if any, within twenty days of issue of this public notice"
That only meant one thing: delay.
A committee was setup under A.K. Sharan, Joint Director General, DGCA to review the objections and suggestions received in respect of application for grant of permit to Air Asia (India) Pvt. Ltd.
A month later, on 21st February 2014, the DGCA issued a second public notice to do with Air Asia India, in which the following statement was made, “The Committee in its report have not found any reason to keep on hold the processing of application of M/s. Air Asia (India) Pvt. Ltd., for issuance of Air Operator Permit (AOP) ."
This paves the way for the issuance of Air Operator’s Permit “subject to compliance of various requirements in terms of CAR, CAP 3100 and other applicable rules and Air Information Circulars."
Aircraft on short finals
A photo showing MSN6015, an Airbus A320-216SL, was caught flying at Toulouse on 19th February, 2014 (image on top). The aircraft, flying under the test registration F-WWBV, will be registered VT-ATF. VT-ATB, MSN6034 will be the next aircraft to join the fleet, according to ch-aviation. Route proving flights, the last stage in the process to obtain an Air Operator Permit, will be done on these aircraft. MSN5200 will, for now atleast, remain with Indonesia Air Asia.
“The A320 delivers fantastic reliability, and we work these aircraft very hard: flying them almost 14 hours a day – conducting eight landings and takeoffs, performing turnarounds in 25 minutes," said Tony Fernandes, in 2012 when receiving the airline’s 100th Airbus A320 at Toulouse.
When IndiGo and GoAir started operations, their first set of Airbus A320 aircraft took almost one month between the first flight and the delivery to the airline. The time period has now reduced to between 11-15 days, though it occasionally takes a month. If the trend continues, AirAsia’s first airplane may not arrive before 2nd March 2014, and not later than 19th March, 2014.
The award of the AOP is expected 1 – 2 weeks after the route proving flights, if all goes well. This pegs, as of today, the AOP award toward the later part of March 2014, and the start of operations in April 2014, coinciding with the Indian Summer.
Apparently, the airline plans to start operations with 5 aircraft, which is expected to grow to 10 in one year of operation. The airline declined comment on its fleet expansion plans.
The airline presently has 35 pilots. With such a number, the airline can comfortably operate 3-4 aircraft.
As per Indian Civil Aviation Requirements, “Before the Scheduled Operator’s Permit is issued, an applicant shall have a fleet of minimum five aeroplanes." The same CAR offers a relaxation, “To facilitate the start of the operations, operators will be permitted to operate with one aeroplane/ helicopter and will be given one year’s time from the date of securing operator’s permit, to have the fleet size of five aircraft."
Airline in the sights of flightcrew.
Air Asia India presently has 35 pilots: 15 Captains and 20 First Officers. And the hiring is still on.
A Spicejet first officer, who flies the Boeing 737NG, has an Airline transport license, and goes by the alias “spiceflyboy" expresses his thoughts on joining Air Asia. He feels that getting an Airbus Fly-By-Wire rating and experience is good, as he can later move on to an Airbus A330, A340, A350 or A380 operator. With his Boeing experience, he feels he can possibly fly for Boeing 777 and 787 operators. “Globally, Airbus pilots are in greater demand". With 2000+ hours on the Boeing 737NG, another 2000+ hours on the Airbus A320 will, in his opinion, make him “future proof". “Air Asia, being a LCC, will give me a lot of flying, which I need at this stage of my flying career. But I’d go only if they hire me as a transition captain".
Would there be any reasons for not joining Air Asia? “If they don’t take off, I wouldn’t join them. If they pay less, or keep me as a first officer, I wouldn’t want to be with them".
For many senior first officers, who may have to wait long for their command, Air Asia is their target. At this stage of an airline, pushing for command is easier: there is a lot of flying, and the need for captains will make the airline push qualified first officers to the left seat. An expedited command, even with a slightly lower remuneration, means a lot for a senior first officer: the “P1” stamp on the license throws open the job market. It was a similar case at IndiGo when the airline was in a dire need of pilots. That scenario no longer exists at the blue airline.
For others, work culture is more important than the money. There are pilots who 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.
In any case, Air Asia India is attracting, on average, 10-15 sufficiently qualified aircrew, for each interview session, even if most are uncertain of switching airlines.
Highlight: AirAsiaIndia to receive AirAsia Japan’s aircraft; First aircraft expected in a few days, in India, for proving flights; Air Operator Certificate to be awarded soon; AirAsia Japan: The cause for its failure and why AirAsia India may not follow the same downpath.
On the 21st of July, 2011, 2 years and 3 months ago, ANA Group, Japan’s largest airline, and AirAsia, the world’s best low cost airline, announced that they were teaming up to form AirAsia Japan, a new low-cost carrier.
ANA was, for a while, seeking opportunities to launch a new low-cost business based at Narita. The Japanese are known to enjoy the finer, more expensive things in life, and to offer the population a new product: low cost, no frills air travel, while still managing to draw the crowds wasn’t, singlehandedly, going to be an easy thing to do. After much study, ANA concluded that partnering with an existing low-cost carrier was the most efficient, strategically advantageous option.
With the Air-Asia partnership, and success almost guaranteed, the joint venture established Air Asia Japan Co. Ltd. in the August of 2011, with ANA holding 51% and AirAsia 49% of the capital. However, Air-Asia’s voting right share was only 33%. The schedule was to apply for the Air Operator’s permit in September-October of the same year, with the first flight planned for the August of 2012, almost a year after applying for the AOC, also known as the AOP (Permit).
In June 2012, the airline took delivery of its first new A320: MSN 5153, followed by another new A320 in July. True to its word, the airline commenced operations on the 1st of August, 2012. 3 more new A320s followed over the next few months, of which 2 are equipped with fuel-saving Sharklets.
11 months after starting operations, Air Asia called off the joint venture, and ANA acquired AirAsia’s entire stake in Air Asia Japan for 2.45 billion yen.
AirAsia Japan booked an operating loss of about US$ 36 Million, for the financial year ending March 2013. This was a shock for Air Asia, as quoting Tony Fernandes, CEO of AirAsia Berhad, “All our other affiliates have made money". The other affiliates are Indonesia AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, and Thai AirAsia.
AirAsia had a meek voice in the joint-venture, with only 33% voting share, with the decision making power in the hands of a full-service, world class yet inefficient airline: ANA. Two other low cost carriers (LCC) that kicked off in 2012 are Peach and Jetstar Japan, both of which are run by the larger voice of partner airlines that have been solely in the LCC Business.
AirAsia couldn’t implement the strategies that have proved successful in other JVs. This resulted in load factors not more than 70%, and as low as 56% in April 2013. Japanese aviation is known for its sky-high landing fees and fuel taxes, and this would have only resulted in Break Even Load Factors (BELF) that are high, making AirAsia Japan bleed with its poor load factors.
One of AirAsia’s key strategies is the large reliance on online bookings. This was a sudden change in the way in which an airline works in Japan, contrasting the population’s familiarity and comfort with booking through agents. This was a contributory reason for the airline’s poor acceptance. Complicating the matter was an online booking system that wasn’t completely translated to Japanese.
In January 2013, to control damage, the airline introduced “Other Payment options available for flights departing from Japan". “It means that you can make payment via selected Convenience Store, ATM and Internet Banking." Such flexible options aren’t available in all countries.
The problems with partnering with a Full Service Carrier (FSC) was evident. For example, ANA needed the cabin door to be opened by an engineer, and not by a cabin crew member. This, like other practices only added to costs. Both the partners squabbled over the airline’s strategy: running a LCC in a non- low-cost mode.
What AirAsia Japan means for AirAsia India
AirAsia Japan, although now without AirAsia involved, is operating under the Airasia Japan brand, but only till the 26th of October, 2013. 1st November onward, the airline, rebranded as Vanilla Air, will take flight with Airbus A320s from ANA. AirAsia’s A320s will be returned to AirAsia.
Of the 5 Airbus A320s received by AirAsia Japan, one has been sent to Air Asia Indonesia. Of the remaining 4 new Airbus A320s, two will make their way to AirAsia India, probably MSN 5547 and MSN 5657, the ones with the Sharklets, a necessity for operations in a country with very high fuel prices.
One of these Airbus A320s is expected in India in late October 2013 for proving flights. (see next section)
AirAsia Japan possibly suffered from a de-focused Tony, who had too much in his hand, in the light of massive A320 orders and the launch of Air Asia Philippines, which commenced operations in March 2012. While one of the failures for AirAsia Japan was the high fuel prices, it does not mean that AirAsia India will walk down the failed joint-venture’s path.
AirAsia India is a three-member JV in which AirAsia holds 49% stake, Tata Sons hold 30% and Arun Bhatia holds the remaining 21% stake. This gives Tony and his team the much needed voice for the success of his airline, which, after his AirAsia Japan experience, is something he will not compromise on.
Even more essential for success is the co-operation required by partners to fall in line with most of AirAsia’s proven strategies, as demonstrated by its other profit making AirAsia joint ventures. Tweeted Tony, in late September 2013,“First AirAsia India board meeting. Superb cooperation between partners.". Not having an airline in the joint venture will mean that AirAsia can pretty much run the show in the way it deems best.
Another lesson learnt is the limited distribution system that had impacted Air Asia’s performance. AirAsia has spent considerable effort with online and offline travel agents throughout India. Although the country is not new to website bookings, having ticketing agents boosts sales, roping the otherwise tech-shy or tech-challenged traveller.
The DGCA (India) Air Operator Certification Manual, CAP3100 Revision 0 August 2013 stipulates that during the demonstration and inspection phase prior to certification (Air Operator Certificate), “the applicant needs to demonstrate to the DGCA that the applicant is in a position to conduct the proposed operations in accordance with the procedures detailed in the documents/manuals reviewed during the previous phase utilizing the personnel/facilities/equipment identified in the formal application." If the DGCA is satisfied with the airline’s personnel, staff, equipment and arrangements, “proving flight(s) will be conducted to one or more destinations of intended operations, as determined by the DGCA.".
A proving flight is a flight, for demonstration purposes to the authority, and must be treated as a scheduled flight and conducted in a manner similar to a revenue flight, with full services and personnel in accordance with the procedures spelt out in the airline’s Operations Manual.
A proving flight is the last stage before the review and award of an Air Operator Certificate / Permit.
Start of Operations: AirAsia India
AirAsia Japan took a year to start operations, after applying for the AOP. AirAsia India filed for its AOP on 6th October, 2013, and is expected to receive the permit by mid-November. On starting operations, Tony said, “I would anticipate maybe April or May next year (2014) but I don’t really know". Going by AirAsia Japan’s timelines, Air Asia India may start operations no later than July 2014. Philippines AirAsia commenced operations almost 2 months after receiving its Air Operator’s Permit.
In control of the venture, Tony is “confident we will make profits in the first year and change aviation". So confident is Tony that, “I know when we go in, it would be great and change Indian aviation forever”.
Although the team is sailing on choppy waters due to Tata’s decision to partner with Singapore Airlines to start an international airline, the outcome of a continued disagreement, which may witness Arun Bhatia buying out Tata’s stake, will not hamper operations and strategies of the airline due to the large share of Tony-controlled AirAsia Berhad. Arun Bhatia’s Telstra Tradeplace is neither an airline, nor was in the airline business, until now.
Said Tony, reflective of possibly never again partnering with an airline, “ANA looked like one sexy woman: really nice, said all the nice things. And when we got to bed, it was a horrible experience. So we had a quick divorce."
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.
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.