IndiGo, India’s largest airline by domestic market share, today accepted its first Airbus A320neo at Toulouse, France. The aircraft, serial number (MSN) 6799, and registered VT-ITC will be the world’s first Airbus A320neo to enter service outside Germany. IndiGo is the second airline to accept the A320neo after Lufthansa.
The A320-271N is powered by two Pratt & Whitney PW1127G-JM engines. Technical issues with the engines had delayed the delivery of these aircraft. At this stage, it is not clear if either the issues have been fully resolved, or IndiGo has benefitted from some sort of compensation from either Airbus or the engine maker Pratt & Whitey. The aircraft is expected to commence commercial operations on on before 15th March 2016.
The first flight for MSN 6799 was on 15th December 2015, nearly 3 months ago. The aircraft is fitted with 186 seats, six more (one row) than the other 101 A320s in the fleet, today. VT-ITC have 31 rows in the cabin, with no windows on the 31st row.
The geared turbofan (GTF) engines fitted on the A320-271N are expected to be quieter than the IAE V2527-A5 engines that power the current fleet of 101 aircraft. The engines are also expected to be more fuel efficient, delivering over 11% fuel burn advantage over the current engines.
The current engines (with the external casing) has a horizontal diameter of 2 meters. The neo engines, with the casing, have a horizontal diameter of 2.67 meters.
It is learnt that technical crew trained on the A320neo are for now based only at Delhi, Kolkata and Bengaluru. The aircraft will be based at Delhi, and initial routes may include DEL-CCU vv and DEL-BLR vv.
Bombardier, manufacturer of the world’s largest western civilian turboprop aircraft, the DHC-8 Q400, today launched the 90 seat variant at the Singapore Airshow, making the largest airplane even larger in terms of capacity, without so much as stretching the airplane by an inch.
The Q400 usually seats 78 passengers in a single class with a 30 inch seat pitch. In 2013, Bombardier had launched the 86 seat variant of the Q400, with Nok Air of Thailand as the launch customer. The 86 seat variant offered a seat pitch of 29 inches, by shifting the aft galley into the aft cargo hold, thereby reducing aft cargo space by 20%, and doing away with the forward baggage hold.
This made the case for Bombardier to announce a 90 seat variant with a seat pitch of 28 inches. To add an extra 4 seats, or one row, Bombardier is, according to Flightglobal, will push back the rear bulkhead and reconfigure the front right hand door. To make the airplane more attractive, Bombardier is increasing the 90 seat variant’s payload by 900 kg, and proposing an escalation of the A-Check and C-Check intervals from 600/6,000 to 800/8,000 flight hours. The 90 seat variant is expected to enter service as early as 2018, provided Bombardier secures a launch customer for the type.
Why at the Singapore Airshow?
There are four reasons why ATR and Bombardier are focusing on South East Asia. First, the geography and infrastructure of countries is such that connectivity within the country is best offered by short haul air transport. Second, the region is comprised of developing nations, where the end customers, the passengers, are very price sensitive. Third, demand for travel is rising. Fourth, the average height of the population is much shorter than the western world.
Turboprops are excellent for short and thin routes. Average ticket prices can only be lowered if the cost per seat falls further. The same airplane packing more seats lowers the cost per seat per flight, which allows airlines to compete better using pricing as a tool. The 90 seat variant may reduce the cost per seat by as much as 11-13% when compared to the 78 seat variant, and by 3-4% when compared to the 86 seat variant. Packing more seats reduces the seat pitch, which would have been a repulsive product to sell to passengers in the western world. But in South East Asia, the lower average height makes a 28 inch seat pitch comfortable. South East Asians are, on average, one of the shortest in the world.
Bombardier had launched the 86 seat variant at Dubai, but the launch airline is from a South East Asian country. Knowing that any demand for ultra high density aircraft variants will only come from Asia, Singapore Airshow 2016, Asia’s biggest commercial aerospace and defense exhibition, had to be the platform of choice.
IndiGo performed well in Q3’16, but was it the airline’s best quarter in the fiscal in terms of performance? We dive into the numbers, comparing Q3’16 with three other quarters, while forecasting the airline’s performance in Q4’16 – the current quarter.
Airbus’ marketing seems to have gone on a slightly unrealistic overdrive, with its “Felt squashed on a recent flight? It’s not you, it’s the seat" campaign, which states:
“Airbus offers an entire product line of modern, efficient jetliners designed for today’s standard of passenger comfort: at least an 18-inch wide seat in economy class."
That statement isn’t true. Data published by Airbus shows that the A320 family’s cabin can have either 18 inch wide seats and a 19 inch aisle, or 17 inch wide seats and a 25 inch aisle. Indigo Airlines has the 17 inch seat option. The campaign doesn’t explicitly mention the “long haul economy standard” set by Airbus, and slyly brings the A320 into the picture as well.
“The company’s entire product line is designed for modern comfort standards, ranging from the single-aisle A320 Family to the widebody A330 and A350 XWB families and the 21st century flagship A380 jetliner – which has a standard 18.5-inch seat in economy class.“
“Seat width is one of the most important – yet often overlooked – factors for passenger comfort. With an extra inch, compared to the 17-inch industry norm set in the 1950s that is still used by other aircraft manufacturers, Airbus jetliners offers travellers more personal space and room for lateral movement."
Embraer offers 18.25 inch wide seats (though another technical documentation points to 18 inch wide seats) in the economy, across the E Jet series (as per company published data). The C-Series, which has threatened the A318, A319, and in part the A320 members of the A320 family, has seats that (claimed by Bombardier) are a mix of 18.5 inch wise seats and 19 inch seats (see image above). These are far wider, and more comfortable than the seats on the A320, and even the A380 in economy (claimed to be 18.5 inch wide). So, “Airbus cabins are designed to offer passengers and airlines the highest levels of comfort, services and efficiency.“?
Airbus’ inadequate and improper “research", states “It’s not you, it’s the seat" and “the 17-inch industry norm set in the 1950s" in the same page (CLICK HERE). Truth be told, Rebecca Utz, from the University of Utah, presented a paper, “Obesity in America, 1960-2000: Is it an Age, Period, or Cohort Phenomenon?", which shows how its “You" and not the “Seat" that has grown too big to fit in a 17 inch wide seat.