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.
The Airbus A320 is the first aircraft to be certified with the Pratt and Whitney (PW) Geared Turbofan (GTF) Engines. The GTF engines are revolutionary, moving somewhat closer to a turboprop with the presence of the reduction gear-drive. The A320neo (new engine option) variant with the PW 1127G-JM engines, the A320-271N, has run into a spot of bother, which has made Qatar and IndiGo refuse the aircraft with its present restrictions. Lufthansa is now the launch customer of the neo.
According to Air Transport World (ATW), “…operational restrictions are still in place for the Pratt & Whitney PW1100G engine, pending some hardware and software changes”. This restriction requires the engines to idle for three minutes before the aircraft can commence taxi. Qatar will not accept a part-baked product, and IndiGo will not operate an airplane that will mess with its strict turn-around schedule.
The 5th production Airbus A320neo (-271), MSN 6801, is slated for Lufthansa, to be registered D-AINA. The 11th production A320-271N, MSN 6864, to be registered D-AINB, is the second A320neo slated for Lufthansa. The remaining A320neos upto the 11th are slated for Indigo (5), Qatar (2), and Spirit Airlines (1). Both are assembled at the line at Hamburg (Germany). The first A320neo is planned by Lufthansa to be introduced into commercial service in January first week, according to ATW.
With Lufthansa stepping up as the launch customer, Qatar will become the second operator to induct the A320neo, and IndiGo the third. Go air is slated to receive the 23rd production A320neo (-271N). IndiGo will then receive its neos only in early 2016, as had originally been widely speculated, based on other issues the engine had earlier faced.
The Pratt and Whitney GTF engine, by virtue of its new technology, will have its share of issues till the engine matures, as is the case with almost every new engine. While the GTF optimises propulsive efficiency through the use of a reduction gearbox to drive the three stages of the engine at optimal speeds, the alternate engine to power the A320neo, CFM’s LEAP-1A, optimises thermal efficiency by running the combustion chamber much hotter, relying heavily on material technology to withstand such temperatures. According to Aspire Aviation, the CFM engines have underperformed on fuel consumption, and is facing issues related to both component heating, and cooling mechanisms.
While IndiGo and Go Air will bear the brunt of the bound-to-happen hiccups as the engine matures, Vistara, which is yet to make a decision on its engines in the first half of 2016, will receive its leased neos only in the second half of 2017. The airline will have good time to keep a close watch on the PW1127G-JM engine performance and reliability to make a better informed decision. While the aircraft and engine certification programme put the aircraft through extreme tests, it is also a known fact that Indian operating conditions are harsh for engines. Prolonged operations in Indian conditions will truly test the A320-271N.
Air India has apparently not yet decided on leasing neos in the short-medium term.
The PW1100G-JM family of engines uses a revolutionary but not new technology that essentially makes the engine a cross between a turboprop and a pure turbofan. This is the largest geared turbofan produced till date. With this engine, Pratt and Whitney marks its return as a single brand powerplant option for narrowbody mainline jets. Boeing 737-300/400/500/600/700/800/900/MAX-7/8/9 are all powered by CFM engines, while the Airbus A320 family of aircraft are powered by either CFM or the IAE consortium’s engines. Pratt and Whitney is part of the IAE consortium.
The “JM" in PW1127G-JM represents partner companies Japanese Aero Engine Corporation (JAEC) and (Motoren- und Turbinen-Union GmbH) MTU. JAEC holds a 23 percent share in the PW1100G program and is responsible for the fan, low pressure compressor (LPC) and combustor/diffuser. MTU holds an 18 percent share and is responsible for the low pressure turbine (LPT), and jointly with Pratt & Whitney the high pressure compressor (HPC). Pratt & Whitney is responsible for the remainder of the engine and systems integration.
The PW1100G-JM family powers the Airbus A320NEO family (A319NEO, A320NEO, and A321NEO) and is available in 5 thrust variants of 22,000/24,000/27,000/30,000/33,000 lbf (pound-force) per engine. The PW1127G-JM that powers the A320NEO is the 27,000 lbf variant.
The CFM powered A320NEO (A320-251N) will be certified in the coming months.
In India, all operators that have placed direct orders for Airbus A320NEO aircraft have chosen the PW1127G-JM as the power plant of choice. IndiGo has 430 Airbus A320NEOs on order, some of which may be converted to A321NEO orders. Go Air has an order for 72 Airbus A320NEO aircraft. Vistara, which is committed to the lease of 20 Airbus A320 aircraft from Bank of China Aviation (BOC Aviation), will receive 7 Airbus A320NEOs from mid 2017 onwards. However, the engine option has not yet been finalised. AirAsia India, which leases aircraft from AirAsia Berhad, will receive Airbus A320NEOs powered by the CFM LEAP engines.
One of IndiGo’s Airbus A320NEOs, MSN 6720, is one of the three test aircraft, and has been flying since September 25th, 2015. However, the first production aircraft is destined for Qatar Airways, the launch customer. MSN 6744, to be registered VT-ITA, a Hamburg produced A320NEO already painted in airline colors, may be the first A320NEO for IndiGo, despite being produced after the aircraft that was already flying for the certification program.
The three flight test aircraft powered by Pratt & Whitney engines accumulated over 1,070 flight hours over 350 flights. Of these 1,070 flight test hours, 300 were completed with the same aircraft in an airline like environment to ensure operational maturity at entry into service.
The A320-271N is the 9th sub-variant of the A320-200 family, after A320-211/212/214/215/216/231/232/233. The A321-271N is ‘significantly different’ from the original A320 Type certificate via the modification labelled “MOD 161000”. Pratt and Whitney received FAA certification for the PW1100G-JM engine on December 19th, 2014.
The A320-271N’s operating empty weight is around 3 tonnes heavier than the A320-232 which IndiGo flies today. However, the maximum take-off weight of the highest weight variant of the A320-271N is 79 tonnes, which is just 1 tonne higher than the maximum take-off weight of the highest weight variant of the A320-232. The dry weight of each PW1127G-JM engine is 453kg heavier than the IAE V2527-A5 that powers the -232 variant. This implies that the weight of accessories and structural reinforcements total to around 2 tonnes.
The A320-271N promises a fuel saving of upto 11% over the A320-232SL and 15% over the A320-232 (non winglet). Such savings are however realised only on flights of 3000NM and higher.
There is a strong possibility of IndiGo receiving its first Airbus A320NEO by end of this calendar year. As per our information, IndiGo’s A320NEOs will be fitted with 186 seats – six seats more than what it fits every aircraft cabin with, today.
Thanks to Cyril for the heads up on the certification.
When GoAir announced yesterday its intention to offer 17 lakh (1.7 Million) seats for sale for the travel period between Jan 01, 2015 and March 31st 2015, there was something misleading, yet not dishonest about the advertisement.
The advertisement, ‘Winter Offer – 17,00,000 air tickets for travel from January 1 to March 31, 2015 – Fares Rs. 1,469* onwards. Book now!‘, projected the offer as a large volume sale, perhaps on the lines of SpiceJet’s, during the latter’s better days.
The result? The ‘Winter Offer’ attracted many visitors to its website, making the website slow, unresponsive, and at times – not load at all. But the attention it gathered was based on perhaps a misleading wording of the offer.
Go Air is a small sized, Airbus A320 operator. Each aircraft flies just 176 seats, as four middle seats in the first two rows are left vacant as part of the Go Business offering. This airline flies to 22 destinations, on mostly mature routes which the airline claims are ‘profitable’ (in reality, profitable for the capacity of the aircraft). On average, the airline flies 128 flights a day – all domestic – and carries some 20,000 passengers a day. 20,000 passengers translate to 18 lakh (1.8 Million) passengers across three months.
On a lean season to lean season basis, GoAir’s capacity has grown 15%. Based on this, this year’s Q4 FY2014-15 : January, February & March – the period of travel for the ‘Winter Offer’ – may fly close to 21 lakh (2.1 Million) seats, of which 5.8lakh (0.58 Million) seats are expected to fly empty in the absence of a market stimulation.
In short, GoAir offers a sale of ‘17,00,000 air tickets ‘ when the airline can fly a maximum of only 21,00,000 seats, making the number of tickets up for grabs 81% of the expected capacity to be deployed, while only 5,80,000 seats (27% of the expected capacity to be deployed) are expected to fly empty in the Q4 lean season. It’s these empty seats that an airline usually tries to fill via an offer or discount.
The real, discount offers may be available for a maximum of around 5,80,000 seats, while the remaining seats may sell at close to the regular fares, as it still falls under the bracket of ‘Fares Rs. 1,469* onwards‘.
We expect only about 35-40% of the 17 lakh seats to sell abnormally fast in this offer period, as these may represent seats that are priced lower than regular fares. The balance 60% may not witness an abnormal purchase rate, and a large portion may remain unpicked. In the event that the 35-40% target is not met, the airline may perhaps come out with another offer to sell excess inventory in advance. In this sale, the airline has withheld ~20% of its capacity (4 lakh seats), which correspond to about 35 seats a flight, which may include both pre-sold seats as well as seats which may be bought in the last one to two weeks of travel, at high prices. Of these, 8 seats per flight are Go Business, which are priced at between 1.5 – 3 times the regular fares.
The five day sale window is abnormally close to the travel period which starts as soon as six days later – a debatable decision.
GoAir chief executive Giorgio De Roni told PTI ,”The January-March quarter is traditionally a lean quarter… The purpose of introducing these fares is to make air travel affordable during the period”. That statement has proved to be very interesting, considering that in the lean season airfares are usually lower, as capacity is higher than demand. The only time airfares rise is when carriers sell their excess inventory early, thereby not putting any pressure on the pricing as the date of travel approaches.
The best way to read the offer is by separating, “17,00,000 air tickets for travel from January 1 to March 31, 2015” and “Fares Rs. 1,469* onwards. Book now!”.
It’s that period of the year again, when SpiceJet decides to roll out attractive fares to fill otherwise empty seats on board its airplanes. For travel between the second half of February till 15th April 2014, SpiceJet offers a 50% discount on the base fare and fuel surcharge (which constitute most of the airfare), on limited seats on direct flights.
Other airlines have followed the airline-in-the-red.
This is perceived as a much better move when compared to what was done last year (2013), when the airline was under the reigns of Neil Mills. A flat fare of INR 2013 was offered, irrespective of the sector length. This time around, the fare, though discounted, is in sync with the sector. The airline has been careful in offering very few such seats on flights that always assure a good demand: the early morning and late evening /night flights between metros.
Apparently, this move from this airline has been “well calibrated”, and the airline has “learnt from its mistakes”.
Last year’s offer did not help much, with the overall load factors.
“It’s time to find your excuse to travel, as SpiceJet is offering 50% off on all flights when you book at least 30 days prior to your travel”, says the “SpiceJet 3 Day Supersale”. Based on last year’s performance, here are thoughts on the supersale:
Assume for the early morning flights (one of the more attractive flights), the load factors hover around 90%. For a 737-800, this is 170 seats. Supposing the airline, based on statistical study, decided to offer 19 seats for this sector, with the Super Sale offer. One of two extreme possibilities exist:
1. Unplanned travelers, smitten by the offer, pick up those 19 seats, while those business travelers who would have anyways paid regular fares and flown, may pick up the remaining 170 seats. But if the ticket fares, which shoot up due to higher perceived demand, is still applicable, an estimated 5-10 seats may remain empty. The airline makes money.
2. Planned travelers, who were yet to book their tickets, pick up the19 tickets, making the remaining, regular fare seats unattractive for unplanned travelers. This will still leave 19 seats empty. The airline loses money.
Practically, it may be a mix between options 1 and 2, leaving the carrier between 0 – 9 extra paying passengers. In this example, the incremental load factor is between 0% and 7%.
On sectors that do not usually attract good load factors, the stakes are much higher.
Comparing the load factors between years is not straightforward, as many variables exist. Yet, here is a comparison between the load factors in the 3 month period, February to April, from 2009 to 2013, for SpiceJet:
Note that when SpiceJet came out with its offer last year, the months of February and March recorded higher average load factors compared to those in 2012, but the month of April did worse than in 2012.
With Go Air, Air India, and IndiGo offering similar airfares, the potential growth in passengers in this 2 month period is distributed.
Will the gamble make airlines bleed or succeed? To be seen.
Almost a year after the first Airbus A320 equipped with a sharklet was delivered, Airbus announced the launch of the sharklet retrofit program for in-service A320 aircraft, and will be available in 2015.
This retrofit includes reinforcing the wing structure and adding the Sharklet wingtip device. As part of the upgrade, the retrofit will lengthen the aircraft’s service life and thus maximise the operators’ return on investment for the Sharklet retrofit.
The extent of reinforcement and more details on the sharklets may be viewed here, in this comprehensive article on Winglets and Sharklets.
Airbus will offer the retrofit initially for A320 and A319 models and will evaluate a retrofit for the A321 at a later stage.
The Sharklets’ benefits include a fuel consumption reduction by up to 4 per cent (Only on long sectors), and an extension of mission range by 100 nautical miles or payload capability increase by up to 450 kilogrammes.
Sharklets equipped on new-build A320 Family aircraft have been delivered by Airbus since December 2012, with more than 184 received by customers and operators to date. MSN 5428 is the first sharklet equipped Airbus A320. In India, only two operators of the Airbus A320 feature sharklet equipped A320s in their fleet: IndiGo and GoAir.
In Indigo, VT-IFH onwards, up to the latest, VT-IFV feature sharklets. Out of 71 Airbus A320 in the airline’s fleet, 15 are equipped with sharklets.
In Go Air, VT-GOL onwards, up to the latest, VT-GOP feature sharklets. Out of 18 Airbus A320 in the airline’s fleet, 5 are equipped with sharklets.
There are 112 Airbus A320 in India (excluding A321 and A319), 17.8% of which are equipped with fuel-saving sharklets.
Airbus MSN 5463, an A320-214 with Sharklets, that first took to the skies on the 15th of January, 2013, was delivered to Go Air (India) on 30th January, 2013, making the airline the second Indian airline to operate a “Sharklet"-equipped Airbus A320. The induction of VT-GOL makes it the 14th aircraft in the fleet, in addition to two A320s that were leased for the winter, from Orbest Orizonia Airlines.
Go Air, like Indigo, leases back airplanes that it sells. VT-GOL, the sharklet equipped A320, is financed by ACG (Aviation Capital Group) under a sale and leaseback arrangement, and is the 14th of 20 airplanes ordered by Go Air in 2006. In addition, Go Air placed an order for 72 A320NEO airplanes in 2011.
According to Airbus, “Due to the very strong customer demand for Sharklets, all Airbus’ single-aisle final assembly lines (FALs) will be engaged in building A320 Family aircraft with Sharklets. These FALs are located in Toulouse (France), Hamburg (Germany) and Tianjin (China) and will soon be followed by an additional A320 FAL in Mobile (Alabama, USA)."
VT-WAE is the oldest airplane in the fleet, delivered in the October of 2007. If Go Air ‘s lease agreement is for 6 years, VT-WAE is slated to leave the fleet this year.
Air Asia recently received the world’s first “Sharklet”-equipped A320 for commercial operations. Indigo and Go air will very soon have VT-IFH and VT-GOL flying in the Indian skies; both equipped with “sharklets”. Ever wanted to know more about these “Sharklets” that are grabbing headlines today?
Here is a comprehensive article on Winglets, or what Airbus prefers to call them: “Sharklets”, which are “Hunting down fuel burn“.