Today, India, for the size that it is, has only four airlines that fly international: Full service carriers (FSCs) Air India and its subsidiaries, and Jet Airways, and Low cost carriers (LCCs) SpiceJet and IndiGo. This is in contrast to the 10 airlines that operate domestic scheduled services in India, today. While Indian carriers flew 81 million domestic passengers in calendar year 2015 (CY2015), Indian carriers flew only 18 million passengers in the same period.
Only two airlines/airline groups operate short, medium and long haul international services: Air India and Jet Airways. Both airlines have diverse fleets: from short haul domestic ATR 72 turboprops to long haul international Boeing 777s. The LCCs in contrast have narrowbody jets that can cater only to short haul international services.
Due to the limitations of fleet and perhaps the lack of commercially attractive international destinations, LCCs IndiGo and SpiceJet deployed only 4.8% and 9.5% of their total flights on international, in CY2015. In contrast, Jet Airways (Including operations from the Jetlite AOP) deployed 22.1%, while Air India (Including Air India Express and Air India Regional (Alliance)) deployed 32.7% of its total flights on international. Air India and Jet Airways together contribute to 84.5% of all international departures by Indian carriers, while IndiGo and SpiceJet contribute to just 8.8% and 6.8% respectively.
This statistic shows IndiGo and SpiceJet are very small players in the international front, serving destinations at neighbouring countries. IndiGo operates only to five international destinations: Kathmandu (Nepal), Muscat (Oman), Singapore (Singapore), Bangkok (Thailand), and Dubai (U.A.E.), while SpiceJet operates only to six international destinations: Bangkok (Thailand), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Dubai (U.A.E), Kabul (Afghanistan), Male (Maldives), and Muscat (Oman).
Air India and Jet Airways started operations before the 5/20 rule was instated in the year 2005. IndiGo and SpiceJet started operations after the 5/20 rule was introduced. The 5/20 rule requires airlines to operate domestic services for a minimum period of five years, after which it can fly international only if the airline has a fleet size of 20 or greater.
Air India Express was the only airline to start immediate international operations (although on an AOP different from Air India) after the 5/20 rule was introduced. The first flight of the airline was an international flight.
Neither IndiGo nor SpiceJet fought the 5/20 rule at that time as the focus of both airlines then, as it is today, is to tap the potential of the domestic market. SpiceJet started international operations in October 2010, while IndiGo commenced international operations in September 2011. Despite both LCCs having started international operations nearly five years ago, when the scale of domestic operations were smaller, both airlines chose not to focus on international operations. (See IndiGo’s fleet induction, here) Both airlines always had the option of inducting larger aircraft to serve destinations beyond the surrounding Asian and Middle East countries. But such is not their business model.
As a result, the only Indian carriers to majorly serve international are Air India and Jet Airways, both of which were not ‘victims’ of the 5/20 rule, whereas IndiGo and SpiceJet, which chose to focus on domestic even though they started international operations five years ago, are ‘victims’ of the 5/20 rule, strongly opposing the removal of the a rule that means nothing, and does not impact either airline..
Go Air started operations in the year 2005, but chose not to increase its fleet beyond 19 aircraft. It deferred its 20th aircraft, which was readied by Airbus. As a result, the airline does not fly international, and seems to have no issues remaining a domestic player. Yet, the airline opposes the removal of the 5/20 rule, though it chose not to operate international.
In the quarter ending 31st December 2015, a total of 12.6 million international passengers were carried by both Indian and international airlines. Of that number, Indian carriers flew just 4.5 million passengers, or just 36% of the total traffic.
India is underutilising its bilaterals, due to restrictions placed by rules such as the 5/20. For the purpose of this case, and for want of time, we consider only three international destinations: Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur.
As of late February 2016, there are three airlines from Singapore that operate to 13 destinations in India. Singapore Airlines, Tiger Airways and Silk Air together operate 134 flights per week to India, from Singapore, and an equal number of return flights. Together, the airlines deploy 30,517 seats per week between Singapore and India, in each direction, using a variety of aircraft: Airbus A319s, A320s, Boeing 737-800s, Airbus A330s, Boeing 777-200s, 777-300s, and Airbus A380.
In contrast, three Indian airlines (four if you count Air India Express separately) connect Singapore to only four destinations in India. Air India, Air India Express, Jet Airways and IndiGo together operate 63 flights per week between the two countries. Together, the airlines deploy just 13,244 seats per week between Singapore and India, in each direction, using Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-800s, Airbus A330-300s, and Boeing 787-8s.
Thai Airways, Thai AirAsia, and Bangkok Airways operate from Bangkok to eight destinations in India, flying 73 flights and deploying 19,497 seats per week, Using Airbus A320s, Boeing 747s, 777-200s, 777-300s, Airbus A330-300s, and Boeing 787-8s.
In contrast, SpiceJet, IndiGo, Jet Airways and Air India together operate 62 flights, deploying 12,474 seats per week, from four Indian destinations to Bangkok, using Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-800s, 737-900s, and Boeing 787-8s.
From Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia Berhad, AirAsia X, Malindo, and Malaysian Airlines operate 180 flights to 12 Indian destinations, deploying 32,903 seats per week between Malaysia and India, using Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-800s, 737-900s, and Airbus A330-300s.
In contrast, only Air India Express operates to Kuala Lumpur, connecting only Chennai to the Malaysian capital with 4 weekly flights and deploying 744 seats per week.
While not all destinations are commercially viable, there is a huge mismatch between the capacity deployed by foreign carriers, and the capacity deployed by Indian carriers, on the same set of routes. Infact, the superior connectivity offered by foreign carriers is not matched by Indian carriers, leaving a large scope for more Indian carriers to boost the Indian economy while also providing international passengers seamless domestic connectivity.
The 5/20 rule must go if India should see it’s own airlines connect India with the rest of the world.
What the FIA won’t tell you
The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), have something against the airlines of the Father of Indian Aviation (FIA), Late JRD Tata. The Tata’s have already done enough to promote connectivity within India: TATA airlines was renamed Air India.
The FIA (Federation) is shaken by the prospects of airlines such as Vistara and AirAsia India. The goal of the FIA is to restrict the operations of such airlines to within India, so that players like the market leader can use its low cost base to lower fares on every route such airlines fly, and bleed the airlines dry. Starting with the smallest and the least capitalised airlines, airlines will knock off the Indian scene, one by one, leaving only a few to operate in India, with the market player enjoying a huge monopoly in setting fares. At that point in time, India will suffer, with neither good international connectivity, nor with strong domestic competition nor worthy alternatives.
While the FIA blames consultancy firm KPMG of auditing Singapore Airlines and consulting for the government, it remains silent on consultancy firm CAPA.
CAPA India, in its Aviation Outlook 2016, stated, “Despite repeated statements by the Minister that there is no logic to the 5/20 rule and that it should be abolished, the discriminatory regulation still remains in place”.
Guess which consultancy firm’s services was sought for IndiGo’s Red Herring Prospectus? CAPA India.
The year 2015 has been a remarkable year for Indian domestic aviation. The growth in domestic passenger numbers, and the start of many new airlines, has undoubtedly led everyone to believe that 2015 is the third boom in Indian aviation.
But how did 2015 register a strong 20% growth in domestic passengers? Was it mere addition of capacity, or was it more? What triggered the growth? This and more, when you click here.
IndiGo will launch a direct daily flight between Delhi and Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) on 7th January 2016, making it the longest domestic direct daily flight to be presently offered in India, with a block time of 3:15 hours.
6E 533 will fly DEL-TRV effective 7th January 2016, and 6E352 will fly TRV-DEL effective 8th January 2016.
No other operator offers direct flights between the two cities.
The flight will cover a great circle distance of 1201 nautical miles (NM) or 2,224 km.
Presently, the longest direct daily domestic flight in India is between Mumbai and Guwahati, operated only by IndiGo, with a great circle distance of 1,119 NM and a block time of 3:00 hrs from BOM-GAU, and 3:30hrs from GAU-BOM. The 30 minute difference is due to headwinds when flying from Guwahati to Mumbai, which serve as tailwinds when flying from Mumbai to Guwahati.
Thanks to Ameya: The longest domestic flight is Port Blair – Delhi (1,339 NM) operated by Air India regional on their CRJ 700s on Fridays and Sundays.
Excellent work in reducing unit costs in Q2’16, exceeded expectations.
Disappointing revenue performance.
Excellent ancillary revenues.
Accumulated losses around 200 crore, losses since start of operations around INR 150 crore.
Financial & certain performance data reported by AirAsia India is inconsistent, inaccurate, and unreliable.
Before we begin the analysis of AirAsia India’s performance, it must be noted that the quarter reports of AirAsia are unreliable, on at least four counts, as observed:
The quarter report for Q1’16 (“SECOND QUARTER REPORT ENDED 30 JUNE 2015”) states that in Q1’15, AirAsia India reported a net loss of RM 0.4 Million. However, the quarter report for Q1’15 (“SECOND QUARTER REPORT ENDED 30 JUNE 2014”) states that AirAsia India reported a net loss of RM 13.8 Million. This translates to a difference of RM 13.4 Million / INR 25.9 crore.
The quarter report for Q4’15 (“FIRST QUARTER REPORT ENDED 31 MARCH 2015”) states that in Q4’14, AirAsia India reported a net loss of RM 12.4 Million, which, based on the RM-INR conversion rate prevalent then, converts to INR 22.7 crore. However, the P&L statement in the same Q4’15 report states that AirAsia India had a net loss of only INR 8 crore.
The quarter report for both Q2’16 (“THIRD QUARTER REPORT ENDED 30 JUNE 2015”) and Q2’15 (“THIRD QUARTER REPORT ENDED 30 JUNE 2014”) states that in Q2’15, AirAsia India recorded a net loss of RM 15.7 Million, which converts to INR 29 crore based on the RM-INR conversion rate prevalent then. However, in the Q2’16 report, AirAsia India is stated as having incurred a net loss of INR 52.9 crore.
The flown capacity (ASK) reported by AirAsia India in its quarterly reports is 12%, 5% and 3% higher than what the airline has reported to the DGCA in Q2’16, Q1’16, and Q415. However, in teh two sources of data, the number of flights by the airline match perfectly, and the number of passengers flown are reasonably close.
As a result of (3), we will refrain from comparing Q2’16 data with Q2’15 data, but will only compare Q2’16 data with Q1’16 and Q4’15 data.
As a result of (4), we will refrain from using the AirAsia India flown capacity as reported in the quarterly reports, as this leads to very misleading performance numbers. We stick to the DGCA data.
We had already mentioned the first three points, but the discovery of issue (4) made us withdraw our earlier analysis and revise the numbers. This is the revised analysis.
Due to the ambiguity resulting from points (1), (2) and (3) above, the total losses accumulated by AirAsia India including Q2’16 is around INR 200 crore. Total losses since start of commercial operations (ignoring June 2014) stands at INR 150 crore as reported by AirAsia India.
Q2’16 (July 01st – September 30th, 2015) was AirAsia India’s first full quarter of 5 aircraft operations. In this period, the airline flew 416,182 passengers (excluding no shows: 401,905. No shows : 3%), which is a 38% rise compared to Q1’16, though the number of flights increased by 50%. This explains Q2’16’s load factors of 76%, as against Q1’16’s load factors of 83%. The load factors in Q2’16 were lower than the 79% witnessed in the other lean season – Q4’15. Load factors include no show passengers.
The airline operated 34 daily flights as of 30th September 2015, and flew its millionth passenger in the first half of August 2015.
Q2 is historically a lean season. Capacity in Q2’16 grew by 56% over Q1’16, despite flights increasing by only 50%. This is in line with the average stage length of each flight increasing to 1,208 km/flt from 1,146 km/flt. Low load factors, increase in average stage length, and the low pricing power in the lean season have together resulted in the average fare dropping to INR 2,684 in Q2’16 from INR 3,350 in Q1’16. In Q2’16, AirAsia India did not inaugurate any new routes, but added a frequency on the Bengaluru – Vizag sector, and hence, there was no significant effect of low yields due to new routes.
Ancillary revenues at the airline have picked up very well. From being just 8% of total revenue in Q4’15, to 10% in Q1’16, it touched 15% in Q2’16. This has been aided by the increase in cargo per flight, to an average of 1,205 kg per flight in Q2’16 compared to 1,074 kg/flt in Q1’16 and 971 kg/flt in Q4’15.
However, on a unit basis, the airline’s revenue per available seat kilometre (RASK) suffered a 27% drop from Q1’16 figures, to settle at INR 2.22/seat-km, due to the factors mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. The unit revenues are 22% lower than the Q4’15 lean season.
AirAsia India’s cost performance is very good, and has touched record low values in Q2’16.
Unit aircraft fuel expenses fell by 13% in Q2’16 compared to Q1’16, despite fuel prices falling by only 9%. Higher average stage length of 5% can only contribute little to improved fuel consumption. However, tankering and uplifting fuel from stations with low sales tax on fuel may explain a part of the lower fuel expenses. Sales tax at Vishakhapatnam is just 1%, Goa 12.5%, Guwahati 22%, Imphal 20%, and Delhi 20%. Delhi, Guwahati, Imphal and Vishakhapatnam operations, and increased operations to Goa in Q2’16 may have significantly contributed to the drop in fuel costs.
Inexplicably, the staff costs have dropped in Q2’16 compared to Q1’16, from INR 31 crore to INR 29 crore. While there is no obvious explanation for such a drop, it has resulted in the unit staff costs to drop by 41% in Q2’16.
Unit maintenance costs have increased by 2% in Q2’16.
Due to longer flights, capacity has increased by 56% but flights by only 50%, in Q2’16 compared to Q1’16 resulting in the 7% drop in unit user charges and related expenses, which are largely a per-flight expense.
Unit lease expenses have dropped significantly by 29% in Q2’16, attributable to increased aircraft utilisation, higher capacity and no aircraft having to remain on ground in Q2’16. Average lease rental per aircraft per month is INR 2 crore.
Other operating expenses, most of which are fixed, have been diluted by the higher capacity, dropping by 25% in Q2’16.
Other Income, which is treated as part of operations by AirAsia India, increased by 10%, positively impacting the bottom line.
The cumulative effect of increasing frequency, network changes, and increased aircraft utilisation, amongst others, has reduced unit total operational costs at AirAsia India by 21% (including other income which can also be a negative quantity as in Q4’15). This is a brilliant performance, though the drop in staff costs is yet to be clearly identified. One explanation is perhaps the reduction in training expenses due to stagnation of fleet growth, and perhaps the voluntary exit of certain crew.
Break Even Figures
In Q2’16, AirAsia India realised a per-passenger cost of INR 4,621, which is 10% lower than the INR 5,166 cost per passenger in Q1’16, but 15% higher than the INR 4,009 cost per passenger in Q4’15.
In Q1’16, AirAsia India incurred a loss of INR 1,469 per passenger. At the same unit passenger revenue of INR 3,154, AirAsia India would have needed a break-even load factor of 112%.
AirAsia India lost INR 1.04 per seat flown every kilometer, which is 5% lower than INR 1.09/seat-km in Q1’16, but 30% higher than the unit loss incurred in Q4’15.
AirAsia India’s cost structure is depicted in the pie chart. Fuel constitutes 36% of the airline’s expenses.
Cancellations and OTP
Only 6 flights were cancelled by AirAsia India, in Q2’16. The airline operated 3,032 flights, with an average on time performance (OTP) of 87%.
In Q3’16, AirAsia India inducted its 6th aircraft into operations, in the second half of November 2015. Daily flights have gone upto 40, with increase in frequencies and the inauguration of a new route, Delhi – Vishakhapatnam.
Our forecast for AirAsia India’s performance in Q3’16:
Quarter’s Load factors to increase to around 85%.
Capacity to increase by 12% and passengers carried (including no shows) to touch around 520,000.
Average unit passenger revenue may rise by around 20%+ compared to Q2’16.
Certain unit costs to slightly increase due to addition of 6th aircraft and sending one aircraft for half a month for scheduled heavy maintenance.
Certain unit costs to very slightly increase due to weather related delays and diversions.
Ancillary Revenue percentage to drop in light of higher average fare.
For break even, unit passenger revenue must rise by around 45% (compared to Q2’16)
Very slim chance of an operational break-even. More likely in Q1’17 (April – June 2016).
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.
The Draft National Civil Aviation Policy (NCAP) 2015 proposes to boost regional connectivity in the country through the implementation of a Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS). The RCS is aimed at making financially unviable, but economically important flights on certain regional routes a reality.
But for this to come true, many moves need to be made. The Ministry claims that there are 476 airstrips / aerodromes / airports in the country. Question is, how many of them are worthy of immediate operation? Today, airlines operate into and out of just 76 airports. What is the condition of the remainder airports?
The Ministry, in its bid to promote regional connectivity, must be specific about what it will fund. We touch upon this, and also try to do the numbers about how much money the Ministry may be able to raise, and with that money, how many regional aircraft may be operated. And which aircraft types are the most likely ones for the near term and the long term.
The RCS will spell the boom of regional aviation in India, only if implemented right. But it will also tax regular airlines, and not offer any viability gap funding for these airlines. There are challenges, and there are opportunities. To learn more, please click here.
The Route Dispersal Guidelines (RDG) was introduced in 1994 to provide air connectivity to Jammu & Kashmir, North East, Island territories, and Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities, by way of internal cross-subsidy by airlines, using their profits on 12 trunk routes.
Nearly 20 years after its introduction, the ministry is revisiting the rules to keep the rule relevant in today’s domestic scenario.
The ministry, as you will learn, is forcing regular scheduled airlines to deploy more capacity on category (CAT) II and IIA and III routes, and as part of the regional connectivity scheme, airlines will have to contribute to the Ministry’s Viability Gap Fund (VGF) 2% of the fare of almost all tickets sold.
Under India’s Companies Act of 2013, companies that have a net worth of $80 million, a turnover of at least $160 million, or net profits of at least $800,000 must develop a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) policy and spend a minimum of at-least 2% of net profit.
In this case, the Ministry is imposing a 2% on ticket revenues, not profits, irrespective of the size or health of the airline. And is forcing airplanes to fly more onto ‘unprofitable’ routes, without any subsidy, which effectively increases the amount of CSR done in the Indian aviation industry, despite the thin margins and heavy losses.
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.
DGCA published data pertaining to an airline’s performance, commonly quoted by the media, such as Load Factors and OTP, is unreliable and misleading.
The data errors can only be recognized in single fleet airlines and/or airlines that have only recently started operations. In both cases, simplicity allows for cross verification of data.
Investigation into the data errors was suggested by a senior officer of a full service Indian airline.
The most interesting of all airline performance indicators is load factors. Load factors are often looked upon as indicators of successful commercial operations at an airline.
DGCA publishes certain airline related data based on an ICAO (International Civil Aviation Organisation, a UN body) ATR (Air Transport) ‘FORM A’. This form is filled and submitted by airlines to the DGCA, which the DGCA then uses to report load factors airline wise.
The manner in which the DGCA computes load factors is by dividing Passenger-Kilometers (PK) by Available seat Kilometers (ASK). PK is a product of total passengers flown and the total kilometres flown by the airline in a particular month. ASK is the number of seats on all flights multiplied by the total kilometres flown by the airline in that particular month. Dividing PK by ASK simplifies to the ratio of Passengers Flown by Available Seats, which is the definition of load factor.
Another way of computing load factors is to determine the available seats using data not reported in ICAO ATR FORM A. This is the number of seats on every flight. FORM A mentions the number of departures in a month. In single fleet airlines such as IndiGo, Go Air, AirAsia and Vistara, the number of seats on every aircraft is uniform fleet-wide. This means that every flight on each of the above mentioned airlines flies 180, 180, 180 and 148 seats, respectively.
Multiplying the number of flights by the number of seats per aircraft will result in the number of seats flown in that month. Dividing the number of passengers flown by the number of seats gives us load factors for the month.
The first and second method should result in the same numbers. However, this is not the case. Below is the reported load factors versus the computed load factors for IndiGo since it started operations. The two methods agree with each other till December 2008. From January 2009, when the DGCA changed its format of reporting data, the errors have been present, and have been unacceptably large and inconsistent.
The data shows that, according to computations, domestic load factors at IndiGo never crossed 90%, and that load factors crossed 80% only on 7 occasions in 9 years. Average domestic load factors at the airline, across 9 years, is recomputed as just 71.5%, with the highest at 83.3% in the month of May 2015. Of course, this arguably assumes that the number of departures and the number of passengers reported by the DGCA are correct.
Similarly, AirAsia India’s and Vistara’s load factors are not always representative of the actual load factors. In the case of these two airlines, the error is small. However, every 1% error in load factor corresponds to a monthly revenue of INR 56 lakhs for an airline the size of AirAsia India, and INR 16 crore for an airline the size of IndiGo.
Vistara’s load factors have never crossed 70%.
Below is that of Go air, for 9 months only:
Considering that the data is derived from what airlines have published, it may be that part of the onus for the error rests on airlines. It is difficult to compute the error in load factors of airlines such as SpiceJet, Jet Airways, Air India, and Air Costa.
Faith in our method of computation is based on cross checking certain computed load factors with the information revealed by a senior airline official.
On Time Performance
Airline on time performance is another parameter met with much enthusiasm. For example, for the month of April of 2015, DGCA reported that AirAsia India had an on time performance (OTP) of 100.0%. DGCA mentions the OTP as observed at only four airports: Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Delhi. Back then, AirAsia India was based only out of Bengaluru.
However, Bengaluru International airport, in its On Time Performance (OPT) report for April, clearly mentions AirAsia India’s arrival OTP as 89% and departure OTP as 98%. This averages to 93.5% OTP, which made headlines as 100%. (Click here for an NDTV piece on this)
Similarly, Go Air’s OTP for Bengaluru was reported by the DGCA as 88.9%, while the airport stated that the airline had an arrival OTP of 73% and a departure OTP of 86%. The DGCA’s OTP for Go Air at Bengaluru was impossibly higher than the higher of the two OTP for the airline for that month.
IndiGo’s OTP at Bengaluru was reported as 77.2%, while the airport stated that the airline had an arrival OTP of 73% and a departure OTP of 81%. In this case, the average of the departure and arrival worked out to 77%, which is acceptable.
In the case of SpiceJet, OTP at Bengaluru was reported as 68.2%, while the airport stated that the airline had an arrival OTP of 78% and a departure OTP of 78%. In this case, the reported OTP is lower than the actual OTP of 78%.
Data reported by the DGCA is very informative. The data is used by analysts and major industry bodies for studies, reports, and analysis. However, no matter how good the analysis, junk data in results in junk data out, with misleading facts and figures about the industry and the performance of airlines.
Poor data standards may give airlines a way to falsely drive up their performance figures, which may be for many reasons, such as driving up investor sentiment.
Alliance Air, which is branded as Air India Regional, received its 5th brand new ATR 72-600 from Toulouse. The aircraft, registered VT-AIW, joins the fleet of four other ATR 72-600s, registered VT-AII, VT-AIT, VT-AIU and VT-AIV. Al five aircraft are leased from Singapore based leasing company Avation.
The ATR 72-600s, which employ an all new cockpit avionics based on technology used on the Airbus A380, is to replace the aging fleet of four ATR 42-320s. The ATR 42-320s in Alliance air are fitted with 48 seats, while the ATR 72-600s are fitted with 70 seats. The older ATRs sport a four bladed propeller, which made the aircraft noisier than the present six-bladed propellers. Passive noise reduction techniques make the present -600’s cabin a lot more pleasant than the older ATRs’.
With the arrival of VT-AIW, which was ferried Toulouse (TLS) – Heraklion (HER) – Ankara (ESB) – Abu Dhabi (AUH) – Delhi (DEL), the total count of active ATR 72s in India (-500 & -600) has gone upto 27, split as 15 ATR 72-500 (Jet AIrways) + 3 ATR 72-600 (Jet AIrways) + 5 ATR 72-600 (Air India Regional / Alliance Air) + 2 ATR 72-500 (Air Pegasus) + 2 ATR 72-500 (TruJet). One ATR 72-500 is undergoing painting at Hosur, destined for Air Pegaus.
India totally has 51 70-80 seat turboprops in service, including 14 Bombardier Q400s of SpiceJet. The smaller ATR 42s, aged on average 21+ years, will soon be phased out.
Air India Regional / Alliance Air flies the longest turboprop route in the country, between Delhi and Rajkot, over 505 nautical miles, a flight that takes 2:30 hours block time, almost the same block time an Airbus or Boeing mainline narrowbody jet (A320 & 737 family) takes to fly double the distance. Due to insufficient crew, and to align with the schedules of the network of its parent Air India, the ATRs at Alliance Air are not utilised as much as the aircraft can be. Average present utilisation of the aircraft at the airline is close to 6 hours per aircraft per day. The aircraft operate only four flights a day, while Jet Airways operates upto 13 hours per aircraft per day and 9 flights per aircraft per day. (maximum figures).
Of the presently four operational ATR 72-600s with Alliance Air, three are based at Delhi, and operate flights to Kullu, Dharamshala, Allahabad, Dehradun, Rajkot and Pantnagar. One is based at Hyderabad, and operates flights to Vijayawada and Tirupati, offering competition to TruJet and Air Costa.
An ATR 72 is best suited for short (distance) and thin (low demand) routes of upto 350 nautical miles. Beyond this, a regional jet generally becomes a more viable and economical option. The shortest ATR 72 sector in India is operated by Jet Airways between Porbandar and Diu, a flight that lasts just 45 minutes block time over a distance of 90 nautical miles (166km). The average ATR 72 city pair distance in India is 223 nautical miles (413 km), while the average domestic flight distance across all domestic flights of all carriers on all aircraft in India is 455NM (843 km).
70-80 seat turboprops serve as good feeder aircraft to mainline aircraft, enabling deeper and true regional penetration in India, especially since many airfields and city pairs in India, today, are operationally and commercially unviable for regional and mainline jets. Many runways are too short for regional and mainline jets, and many cities are too underdeveloped to viably support larger aircraft.
The maps below show the pan-India coverage that turboprops can achieve by being based out of five metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Bengaluru and Hyderabad, and by flying a maximum distance of 400NM. Range circles are 300NM and 400NM radius, as mentioned.
Over the next 20 years, a demand for 2,500 turboprops is anticipated, of which close to 50% may be based at Asia.
Header image does not represent VT-AIW, but VT-AII.
The Delhi <> Goa sectors, and the Delhi <> Guwahati sectors will get an additional frequency. The new sector that the airline is expected to operate is Delhi- Vishakhapatnam. Delhi to Vishakhapatnam will depart at 6:05 am as I52551, and will depart Vishakhapatnam at 8:35.
The total number of flights on the Delhi<>Goa sector goes upto thrice daily, and the number on Delhi<>Guwahati goes upto twice daily, from November 17th.
However, the airline now has two flights to Goa from Delhi (and back) spaced just 45 minutes apart, which may lead to cannibalization, pronounced during the off-peak seasons.
The new Delhi – Guwahati flight gives a Delhi passenger the option of a meaningful day return on the same airline.
One of the three aircraft patterns is expected to be dedicated to these new route and frequencies. Aircraft operating the pattern will fly DEL-VTZ-DEL-GOI-DEL-GAU-DEL, accumulating a block time of 14:45 hrs.
With the addition of the new aircraft and the related routes, the airline will increase capacity (measured in available seat kilometres) by 24% over the existing network, and will increase seat capacity by 17% to 7,200 daily seats. Daily flights will increase to 40 from the present 34.
Unlike in the summer peak season when the airline had two airplanes on ground for nearly two months, and incurred setup costs associated with the opening of four new stations (Delhi, Guwahati, Vishakhapatnam, Imphal) the airline in the winter peak season is not opening any new stations, thereby incurring no one time costs related to the network.
Presently, the airline is only selling the new DEL-GOI-DEL and DEL-GAU-DEL flights. The DEL-VTZ-DEL flights are yet to be announced and opened for sale.
AirAsia India, which has been slow in its growth owing to a primarily domestic-international network strategy that was thwarted by the unreasonable delay in lifting the 5/20 rule (a rule requiring an airline to fly international only after flying domestic for 5 years, and a minimum fleet size of 20 airplanes), received its 6th aircraft at Hyderabad’s Shamshabad airport at the MAS-GMR MRO facility.
The aircraft, bearing MSN 4346, previously flew for Indonesia AirAsia as PK-AXL. It is a non-winglet airplane, and is 5 years 4 months old.
It has now been re-registered to VT-APJ, as a tribute to late Dr. A.P.J Abdul Kalam.
This is AirAsia India’s third non-winglet airplane. This is also the fourth airplane to be dedicated to a person (living and dead) or a place. The other three are VT-ATF (Tony Fernandes), VT-JRT (JRD Tata) and VT-BLR (Bengaluru).
This is perhaps the last airplane the airline will induct in this calendar year – something we had mentioned earlier.
With this, AirAsia India will be adding capacity during the winter peak season. The airline may start operating new sectors or additional frequencies only towards mid-late November 2015.
Due to the late announcement of routes, some of the lowest airfares may be found on AirAsia’s network. While this is good for passengers, it may adversely impact the airline’s unit revenues.
The airline has however started offering via flights – Passengers from Delhi can fly to Imphal via Guwahati, something which the airline did not offer earlier. Via flights will help improve revenues at the airline – something we had mentioned earlier.
While total costs in the airline will rise with the induction of the 6th aircraft, unit costs are expected to slightly fall, which is good for the airline.
The 6th aircraft may be based at Delhi, and may connect the national capital to Visakhapatnam, among other frequency/route additions.
Operational exigencies are common and happen to every airline. Last evening, one of AirAsia India’s five aircraft, registered VT-BLR, Airbus A320-216 (bearing serial number 4070 manufactured 6 years ago), while operating I5 1321 – the Goa to Bengaluru flight – returned to Goa immediately after departure, as it reportedly suffered an engine bird strike on departure. The aircraft returned safely to Goa, where it remains grounded at the time of writing.
A second aircraft, VT-ATB presently based out of Delhi, operated I5 2327, the scheduled Delhi-Goa afternoon flight. On landing at Goa, it operated 1321 – the Goa – Bengaluru flight. The aircraft later performed a late night ferry (non-commercial flight) from Bengaluru to Goa, and then carried the Goa-Delhi passengers, landing at Delhi at nearly 3:30am.
VT-BLR’s temporary grounding had affected the airline’s network. The previous night’s Bengaluru-Vishakapatnam-Bengaluru and Bengaluru-Cochin-Bengaluru flights, which were to have been operated by VT-BLR, were delayed by around 3 hours and 1 hour, respectively, as other aircraft (VT-ATF, VT-JRT) had to operate these flights after finishing their usual patterns. The pattern of only one of five aircraft: VT-RED based at Delhi, was not affected.
As a result of VT-BLR’s grounding at Goa, today morning’s Bengaluru-Jaipur-Bengaluru (I5 1720/1721), and the afternoon Bengaluru-Goa-Bengaluru (I5 1320/1321) have been cancelled, while the evening Bengaluru-Jaipur-Bengaluru (I5 1722/1723) flights have been delayed by at least 2 hours.
Training flights on VT-JRT at Bengaluru’s HAL airport, conducted last night, were not affected.
The aim of this entry is to study how the airline handled an incident, and the effects of such an incident on the network, and not to comment on or judge its ability or methodology.
Among all airlines to have started operations with mainline jets (Airbus A320 or Boeing 737 aircraft), AirAsia India’s growth (in terms of passengers flown) has been better than only GoAir’s. While GoAir’s average aircraft fleet in the first year of operations was higher than AirAsia India’s, but flew with poor load factors.
Air Deccan is not considered as the airline started operations in October 2003 with 48 seat ATR-42 aircraft and inducted its first Airbus A320 only in July 2004 – 9 months after starting operations.
Until the issue of flying international is resolved, AirAsia India may induct just one other Airbus A320 into its fleet by the end of the calendar year 2015, taking the total fleet size to 6. Vistara will however induct 3 more to take the total fleet size to 9 aircraft by the end of the calendar year.
Vistara’s total passengers flown at the end of the fifth full month of operations (June) is slightly better than what Kingfisher flew in the corresponding period.
Vistara may have flown close to 450,000 passengers towards the end of July 2015, since start of operations. The airline is expected to fly its 500,000th (half millionth) passenger during the second or third week of August 2015.
Hyderabad based TruJet, brand name of Turbo Megha Airways Private Limited, is India’s 9th operational private airline, the country’s third operational regional scheduled domestic airline, and the country’s second all-turboprop, operational airline.
Turbo Megha Airways Private Limited was incorporated in March 2013, by three persons: Vankayalapati Umesh, Ram Charan Tej Konidala, and Ram’s sister, Sushmita Laggishetty.
46 year old Umesh, who serves as the Managing Director (MD) of the airline, rose from a ground-handling technician to running Turbo Aviation, which includes a jet charter company ‘Turbo Charter’ that owns a Cessna CitationCJ2. Turbo Aviation also offers ground handling services, CAMO services, and MRO Services.
30 year old Ram Charan is a Telugu Actor, and a director of MAA TV and reportedly owns Hyderabad Polo Horse Riding club. He and his older sister Sushmita are two of three children to 59 year old actor, producer, and Indian National Congress politician Konidela Siva Sankara Vara Prasad alias ‘Chiranjeevi’.
The company had an authorized share capital of INR 15 crores (INR 150 million), which was 3 Crores more than the minimum paid up capital requirement for an airline operating turboprop aircraft of the likes of ATR 72 and Q400, or regional jets like the Embraer E170, 175 and CRJ 700 and 900. Seating capacity was hence limited to the 70 – 90 seat category.
In May 2013, the airline pumped in INR 7 crores as capital, followed by another 5 crores which took the total paid up capital to 12 crores in July 2013 – sufficient to satisfy the DGCA requirement for the application of a regional permit.
In July 2014 – a year later, the airline received its no objection certificate (NOC) that allowed the airline to start the process towards obtaining an air operator permit (AOP). The formal application meeting for a southern regional AOP was held on 23rd January 2015.
In April 2015, the authorized share capital of the airline was increased to INR 50 crores, which can allow for a paid up capital of the same amount – the amount advised by the DGCA. This also allows the airline to apply for a pan-India license with larger airplanes.
In May 2015, Prem Kumar Pandey, Assistant Vice President at Megha Engineering & Infrastructures Ltd (MEIL), was appointed as a director, with investment from MEIL. 29 year old Prem is the son-in-law of one of the promoters of MEIL. ‘Megha’ in the registered name Turbo Megha Airways Private Limited indicates that investment from MEIL was certain way back in 2013.
Shareholding pattern in the airline is believed to have been restructured to stand as 22%-26%-52% between Umesh – Charan & family – MEIL, with access to around an additional INR 100 crore.
The airline received its first of two ATR 72-500 aircraft on 21st May 2015. The aircraft had earlier flown for the Malaysian airline and charter operator Berjaya Air. The 6 year old aircraft MSN 858 is registered VT-TMK, and the cabin is laid out with 72 seats. A month later, the airline received its second ATR 72-500 (MSN 875). After Berjaya shut turboprop operations, both aircraft were purchased by Singapore based Phoenix Aircraft Leasing, and were sold to Ireland based Elix Aviation Capital Services in December 2014. Elix has dry-leased the airplanes to TruJet. The same lessor has leased airplanes to Bangalore based Air Pegasus, which is a smart move as it helps transfer assets between operators should either shut operations.
The airline received its AOP on 7th July 2015, less than a year since obtaining its NOC, and around one-and-a-half months since receiving its first aircraft, making it the fastest regional Indian airline to obtain its AOP. Turbo Aviation’s experience with running a charter service which resulted in good preparedness, and the airline’s connections in the ministry are believed to have speeded up the process.
Trujet is an interesting name considering the airline operates turboprop aircraft for now. However, it must be borne in mind that a turboprop engine’s core is a jet engine.
According to the airline, ‘Trujet logo is inspired by the national bird of India peacock and represents all that the TruJet service aspires to be— graceful, joyful and luxurious. The logo also conveys attributes of service, professionalism, sophistication and, importantly, the airline’s Indian roots.’
Network, Operations & Competition
Usually, airlines take about a week to open for bookings once the AOP is received. Once bookings open, an airline starts operations usually 2-4 weeks thereafter. This allows sufficient bookings to build up before operations can commence.
In the case of Trujet, the airline wanted to cash in on the Pushkaram festival, an Indian festival dedicated to worshiping of rivers, once every 12 years. The airline started operations with one aircraft on 12th July, flying between Hyderabad, Chennai, Tirupati, and Rajamundry.
On 26th July, the airline commenced its regular, non-seasonal operations with one aircraft, connecting Aurangabad, Tirupati and Rajamundry to Hyderabad. All three destinations are significantly driven by religious tourism. Aurangabad is an airport very close to a religious destination – Shirdi. The airline stopped services to Chennai from 26th July.
Presently, the airline operates a double Hyderabad-Tirupati service, and single Hyderabad- Rajamundry and Hyderabad-Aurangabad services. With this, the airline operates 8 flights a day, clocking 10:20 hours of utilisation with turn-around times of 25 minutes. Average block time is 1:20 hours, and average sector distances are 220NM. With such sectors, the aircraft can be pushed (subject to commercial and operational viability) to fly a maximum of 10 flights a day with a utilisation totaling a little over 13 hours a day. However, the present utilisation is good for a startup airline.
The second aircraft is expected to be operationally ready in a week’s time, and will fly sectors out of Chennai.
At the time of research, Trujet’s frequency between Hyderabad and Tirupati, both ways, is twice daily, against 6 flights onward and 8 flights on the return. Aircraft deployed on the sector are in the 70-80 seat category including Air Costa’s Embraer E170s and SpiceJet’s Q400s. However, Air India deploys 172 seat A321s and 48 seat ATR 42s on that route.
On the Hyderabad-Aurangabad sector, Trujet enjoys a monopoly.
On the Hyderabad – Rajamundry sector, Trujet’s single frequency competes with SpiceJet’s 1 onward and 2 return frequencies, and Jet Airways’ three frequencies either way. While SpiceJet deploys its 78 seat Bombardier Q400s on the route, Jet Airways deploys ATR 72-500s. Difference in speeds between the two types result in only 5-10 minutes of block time difference.
The airline offers a transit (no change of flight) service between Tirupati and Aurangabad via Hyderabad.
A flat 4% sales tax on fuel (in comparison to upto 28%) for aircraft operating scheduled serviced with less than 80 seats, and a waiver of airport charges for aircraft of such weight category will keep direct operating costs at Trujet lean. The operating economics of the ATR 72, which is best suited for such mission lengths, will further contribute to a lean operating structure.
Maintenance of the aircraft is carried out in house at Turbo Aviation’s maintenance facility, which has an approval for the aircraft type.
The airline has a very simple fare model that has 13 active fare buckets. Fares for all sectors in corresponding buckets are the same fare, whether a direct or a hopping flight. There seems to be no discounted one-way fares for return flights. Adaptation to sectors that are higher in demand or longer is achieved by erasing lower fare buckets. The first 9 buckets are in flat INR 500 increments, and the last 4 buckets are in increasing increments. The airline will reportedly offer 10% discount for senior citizens, students below 18 years, members of the South India Artistes’ Association and those from the film fraternity.
Trujet may become the only airline in India to offer a comprehensive travel solution. To cater to passengers whose wish to be connected to cities or towns that do not have an airport, the airline plans of introducing Volvo bus services that pick up passengers to drop them at the airport, and pick up passengers from airports to drop them at their actual destinations such as Shirdi. The airline reportedly plans to assume full responsibility of baggage handling at the bus pick up point, the airport, and the bus drop point.
The airline reportedly offers a complimentary in-flight meal.
The airline has reportedly identified 18 tier-II towns and cities in the south for operations. Most major airport cities in the southern region show promise.
Some of the other destinations, as made public earlier, are Mangalore, Vijayawada, Bangalore, Hubli, Vishakhapatnam, Tuticorin, Coimbatore, Salem, and Kadapa. The airline’s new destinations are expected to be announced when the second aircraft is ready to fly online, as the first aircraft’s rotation has no room to accommodate new flights.
The airline reportedly has plans to increase the fleet to around 5 aircraft by March 2016. The fleet is reportedly expected to touch a size of 4 in January 2016.
The airline is targeting a break even period of 12 – 24 months. This translates to a break even between Q1’17 and Q1’18.
A regional model with turboprops makes for a good feeder model, and may be sustainable in low capacity high demand routes, but may saturate fast without room for growth in connectivity. The ATR 72 is ideal for sectors of upto 1:45 hrs block time. For real growth, an airline must look beyond mere regional connectivity, and will need to offer pan India, inter-regional connectivity, which is commercially and operationally viable with regional jets. The airline is reportedly taking steps towards expanding its operational territory beyond the southern region into neighboring regions, for now with its turboprop aircraft.
The airline may adopt a dual-fleet strategy for a good combination of range, connectivity, and penetration.
It is to be seen if the airline becomes the first regional operator to convert to a pan-India license.
The Flying Engineer offered comments on Trujet to Business Standard, based on this research . Click Here to read.