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.
SpiceJet introduced the Q400s in 2011 as a game changer. The move was not in line with what low cost carriers world over had practiced. After Air Deccan, SpiceJet became the second low cost carrier (which we prefer to call low fare carrier) in India to adopt a dual fleet strategy.
The reasoning was simple enough. First, India is a country where certain routes are saturated while many routes with potential are unexplored. This is largely due to the misconception of a ‘one aircraft fits all’ strategy. Having an oversized airplane (in terms of seats) fly on routes that have insufficient demand only leads to poor control on pricing and revenue management. The hope that some routes will eventually grow to cater to the large jet is unwise. The right sized airplane matters. Second, blindly copying and pasting to India a low cost model that worked wonders overseas is again unwise. Every market is unique, and requires its own study.
But perhaps, SpiceJet wasn’t ready to handle the Q400. Perhaps, SpiceJet did not pull off a good deal with Bombardier. Perhaps, SpiceJet’s study was half baked. Perhaps, SpiceJet was short sighted and the turboprop may have performed better in the hands of a smarter, shrewder operator. But most importantly, perhaps the Q400 fleet and staff were meted with a step-motherly treatment.
Optimisations in the Q400 fleet are only now becoming visible. Ajay Singh is using pressure tactics to squeeze Bombardier to give the airline more. A few Q400s are expected to join the fleet, with the insurance payoff from the Q400 that was written off in a runway excursion at Hubli. The Q400 fleet size reduced to 14 Q400s from 15, and one Q400 that was cannibalised has now been restored and is apparently due for a maintenance test flight. The airline has also started to optimally fly its airplanes, to realise fuel savings and time savings. Time saved can accumulate to fly an additional sector. The airline is also working to better integrate the Q400 network with its Boeing network. After all, the Q400s are intended to primarily serve as feeders. Salaries of the Q400 flight crew have been brought on par with those on the Boeings.
The airline, four years late, has realised that the Q400 cannot play the ATR game. The Q400 must play the Q400 game. The turboprop has been designed to cater to routes that are as thin as the ATR’s, but longer than what the ATR s suited to fly. And that the USP of the Q400 is its speed.
The difference between the games of the Q400s and ATR72s? The Q400 focuses on maximising revenuepotential, while the ATR72 focuses on minimising costs. Those aren’t the same variety of apples to compare.
Simply put, the management wasn’t ready for the Q400.
The Q400s, today
As of today, 13 of the 14 Q400s in the airline’s fleet are active, with the 14th expected to join soon. Effective 16th July, these 13 Q400s will operate 116 flights a day, operating for a total of 149:20 hours each day, and deploying a capacity of 9048 seats on the network, daily.
Each Q400 flies on average almost 9 flights a day, and is utilised to just a minute short of 11:30 hrs per day, per aircraft. A year ago, the utilisation was at 10:20 hrs.
Of the 116 departures, the airline flies 76 routes (where the onward and the return are treated separately) between 38 city pairs. This is on average a frequency of 1.5 on each route. The Q400s serve 28 destinations, resulting in an average of 1.3 city pairs from each destination.
Of the 38 city pairs, 10 are monopoly sectors. Of the 38 city pairs, 34 are exclusively operated by the Q400s by SpiceJet. Of the 28 destinations, 15 are exclusively Q400 destinations. Refer the diagram below.
The Q400 flies the longest turboprop sector in India, between Jabalpur and Mumbai. Sectors like this are what the Q400 are better suited for: longer than those of an ATR, shorter than those suited for a jet. Monopoly sectors are in yellow. Nearly 90% of the city pairs are exclusively operated by the Q400 at SpiceJet.
Block times for the sectors do not necessarily match the distances. The sector block times, for the same sectors in the same order, are graphed below:
The most important stations for SpiceJet’s Q400s are, in order of departures, Hyderabad, Chennai, Delhi and Bangalore. Bangalore, despite being a hub, is not a base for the Q400s.
Jabalpur is important to the airline. Q400s from Delhi are swapped with the Q400s from Hyderabad at Jabalpur, necessary for maintenance which is at Hyderabad. Q400s from Chennai swap with the Q400s at Hyderabad through the Goa flights.
53% of the stations served by the Q400 are exclusive Q400 stations for SpiceJet.
Of the above stations, Belgaum and Tuticorin are exclusively served by SpiceJet, and operated to by the Q400s. Belgaum and Tuticorin are examples of airports that are either operationally unfeasible or commercially unviable to operate using a 180 seat jet aircraft. Most of the Q400 sectors listed here are commercially unviable for a 180 seat jet (the market isn’t yet sufficiently big), and atleast 40% of the sectors are not advisable to deploy a jet on, due to short sector lengths.
Typically, a regional jet with similar seats offers better operating economics and greater productivity when sector distances exceed 250 – 300NM. Average sector length for SpiceJet’s Q400s is 260NM, which speaks well about the way in which the asset is being used. 53% of the 38 sectors are below the average of 260NM, and 74% of the 38 sectors are below 300NM.
Flying the Q400 faster to save fuel?
The Q400 can be flown in one of four speed schedules – Long Range Cruise (LRC), High Speed Cruise (HSC), Intermediate Cruise Speed (ISC – between HSC & LRC), and Maximum Cruise rating (MCR). When arranged in order of increasing speeds, this is LRC-ISC-HSC-MCR.
Among 16 techniques in which an operator may realise fuel savings, optimisation of cruise speeds realises the largest potential gain. The Specific Air Range (SAR) curve below shows the distance travelled per pound of fuel. Higher the SAR, the longer the distance that the Q400 can cover for the same quantity of fuel.
While LRC (red line) would be the choice of speed for any operator who considers only fuel costs, SpiceJet used to operate its aircraft at ISC (purple line). This burnt more fuel, but saved time, which results in reduced time-related costs, and higher productivity.
Of late, SpiceJet has been flying its Q400s at HSC, for flights of around 1 hr in flight time (not block time). This translates to flights of sector distances of 300NM and below, which are 74% of all sectors flown by the Q400s at SpiceJet. Flying at HSC should, according to tables, burn more fuel, but pilots do report savings of around 150Kgs of fuel per sector. 150Kgs of fuel saved is around 14% of the trip fuel for a one hour flight time sector, which is a significant amount.
Such high fuel saving percentages with an increase in speed is not possible. The only explanation could be a host of other procedures that have been implemented that impact the overall fuel consumption. Better routing to take advantage of winds can have significant impact on fuel burns. Optimisation of weights, climb and descent profiles, improvised taxi procedures and approaches, use of detailed performance tables, and better APU management are some of the ways which fuel burn can be reduced.
The Q400 is an aircraft that must be used as a high speed aircraft that serves as a compromise between jet-like speeds and turboprop economy. Pushing the airplane to perform to either extreme is a significant deviation from the intended purpose of the aircraft, which leads to inappropriate and poor asset utilization.
Asset utilization seems to be on the increase. The Q400 is deployed on those routes on which a 180 seat jet cannot operate, thereby allowing SpiceJet to grow its roots into untapped markets to feed traffic to the mainline network. It is a gap filler. With more flights a day, the aircraft is being flown to its revenue generating potential. The networks of the two fleets – jet and turboprop are being aligned to cater to a hub and spoke model. However, a good narrow-body jet fleet size is required to allow the airline to make the most of the connectivity offered by its turboprop fleet.
One of AirAsia India’s aircraft utilisation has increased to one of the highest in the country.
1 millionth passenger expected to be flown around August 5th.
Typical turn around time: 25 -30 minutes.
The airline, which started operations one year ago on June 12th, 2014, now operates a fleet of 5 aircraft from 2 hubs – Bangalore and Delhi. All of the airline’s present flights from Delhi are no less than 2 hours 20 minutes long. Such long flights ensure that the airplanes spend a larger fraction of the flight in air, resulting in higher aircraft utilisation.
One of the airline’s 5 aircraft rotations flies only 2:30hr flights. This rotation covers a Delhi-Bangalore return, and two Delhi-Goa returns. Together, the utilisation on this pattern totals to 15:10 hrs, which is 50 minutes short of the target that the airline had made public, but one of the highest in the country for all domestic operations.
Average utilisation is however at 12:19 hrs, and the minimum utilisation is 11:00hrs. The average turn-around time at the airline is 36 minutes, a figure that is 16 minutes higher than the target of 20 minutes. However, turn around periods of 25 minutes and 30 minutes account for 70% of all turnarounds. There are no turnarounds of 20 minutes. Refer graph below.
The airline recently added Imphal as a destination, raising the number of destinations to 10. The airline today flies 32 flights a day, deploying 5,760 seats a day and flying around 4,500 passengers daily. Till end May 2015, the airline had flown 716,000 passengers. The airline may fly its 1 millionth passenger on or around the 5th of August 2015.
The airline may add a third Cochin flight in the morning, to provide a well spread out thrice daily service to Cochin from Bangalore. When added, all airplanes will be flying at near maximum utilisation in their rotations. No further growth is possible with the existing fleet.
Aircraft between hubs may be swapped through the night flight I52227 DEL-BLR and I52228 BLR-DEL. Two rotations sync up at the right times to allow for a swap. Until a third Cochin is launched, the airline may use the morning flight I52221 DEL-BLR to swap airplanes.
Ideally, considering that Delhi base has higher aircraft utilisation, the airline may realise a higher fuel saving by deploying two winglet-equipped aircraft at Delhi rather than just one as is the case today. Winglets help realise greater savings on longer flights.
According to the AirAsia Group, AirAsia India, “Overall performance was better than expected with strong loads but is working on keeping costs under check.”
AirAsia India announced its plans to operate to the north, connecting Bangalore with Chandigarh and Jaipur effective September 5th, 2014. The new routes, and an additional frequency on the Goa-Bangalore vv sector will be supported with a fleet of two aircraft.
The second aircraft for AirAsia India is expected to be delivered in the month of August. The plan to fly to the north with the arrival of the second aircraft is in line with Mittu Chandilya’s-CEO AirAsia India-statements on June 12th when AirAsia India started its commercial operations.
Playing on Costa’s Turf
Air Costa, the Vijayawada based regional airline poised to ‘soon’ fly pan India, plays the game of Tier I – Tier II / Tier III connectivity. The airline does not yet fly intra Tier II or Tier III city routes, and does not yet serve Tier III cities.
AirAsia India plays the Air Costa game: The only Tier I city it flies to, out of Bangalore, is Chennai. The other cities on its schedule effective September 5th – Chandigarh, Jaipur, Kochi, Goa- are all Tier II.
With just its second aircraft, AirAsia India will start flying to the north, and tap a fairly neglected route – Bangalore-Jaipur, and open a virgin route- Bangalore-Chandigarh. Bangalore-Chandigarh was on the cards of Air Costa, but the startup regional airline has had to grapple with too many domestic issues to lend it the speed to expand. The only route flown by Air Costa, not served by others, is the Hyderabad-Jaipur non-stop.
But then Air Costa does something that AirAsia doesn’t believe in: it flies three way routes: one variant of a point-to-point network strategy. For example, Air Costa flies Bangalore-Jaipur-Hyderabad: not an immediate return. According to Mittu, “point-to-point means you start from one place, you go to one, and you come back and park the plane. We don’t do three way exotic routes and none of that.”
AirAsia is appearing less of a threat to IndiGo and more to Air Costa, though the two new players have two different aircraft, which makes a direct competition and comparison impossible.
If AirAsia India has well researched its potential Bangalore-Chandigarh traffic, then the airline will stand to reap the benefits of route monopoly. If however the airline doesn’t really fetch the traffic it needs, it would have stimulated the market, allowing Air Costa to then jump in and reap the benefits with a smaller airplane that will cater to a lower demand.
But if the market proves to be really strong, it will attract IndiGo and Air Costa on this virgin route.
On the Jaipur sector, the only other airlines to offer a direct service are Air Costa and Indigo. AirAsia’s departure to Jaipur is timed 35 minutes before Air Costa’s, and leaves Jaipur at 12:45hrs to return to Banaglore. Air Costa however doesn’t fly the return, allowing AirAsia India to tap a noon slot. Air Costa and IndiGo fly Jaipur-Bangalore only in the evening and later evening, respectively.
In essence, AirAsia India has placed itself between Indigo and Air Costa, being a true competitor to neither airline, while easily competing in some form and fashion with either airline on a per route basis.
Not SpiceJet’s cup of ‘tea, coffee, or me’
SpiceJet doesn’t offer any flights from Bangalore to Jaipur, or the return. The only possible all-SpiceJet route, not offered by the airline, is a two stop hop via Hyderabad and Delhi, which is least attractive. This is the fallout of poor frequency, even on the mainlines, effectively negating the network spread achieved by the airline’s dual fleet of Q400s and 737NGs.
On the Chandigarh front, SpiceJet’s least-total duration connection via Delhi makes the journey 5:10hr long, just 15 minutes longer than IndiGo’s connection via Delhi. The direct flight offered by AirAsia is just 2:55hr long.
Increased aircraft Utilization over longer sectors.
A second pattern effective September 5th 2014, when the second aircraft joins the fleet, will comprise of six flights, each with an average flight time of 2:14hrs, resulting in an aircraft utilization of 13:25hrs, with a utilization efficiency of 85%. The higher efficiency is due to the longer flights of Bangalore-Jaipur and return, and Bangalore-Chandigarh and return.
The airline hopes to, and will be able to, manage a 25 minute turnaround at Jaipur and Chandigarh. However, the 25 minutes planned at Bangalore in the first pattern seems surprising, as analyzed previously.
Based on the pattern timings, the second aircraft is likely to arrive towards end August. The airline plans to receive one airplane a month thereafter.
Apparently, Mittu said during yesterday’s Chennai press conference that the airline will induct as many airplanes as required to serve as many routes as possible till there are no route combinations left to fly.
Strong local and P2P focus
If anyone should be happy, it must be Subramanian Swamy. AirAsia’s network will open up routes that will benefit the economy, while as of today, not truly stepping on the toes of another airline. Today, there seems to be no efforts taken by AirAsia India to plan its network so as to feed traffic into its sister subsidiaries of AirAisa Malaysia or Thai AirAsia.
With routes that fly direct from one region to another, AirAsia India also seems to have a ‘regional’ focus, and by diverting traffic this way, can help de-congest airports like Delhi, which has to handle a significant number of transit passengers today.
With the two patterns, AirAsia India will add the capacity to cater to 1 million passengers, annually. As more airplanes come in, and the network and frequency grow, this number will only rise. With an average load factor across all flights today estimated at a realistic 80-85%, the airline will contribute to 800,000-850,000 passenger movements at Bangalore, annually, based on September’s patterns. This may serve to develop Bangalore as a prominent, and possibly a preferred hub and gateway in/to South India.
Double daily to Kochi: Aircraft utilisation crosses 10 hours per day (Aug 14th onward).
Hyderabad seems like the next logical destination.
Airline touches 25 minute turn around, timing though is baffling.
AirAsia India announced the double daily to Kochi today with minimal publicity. The double daily is effective August 14th onward, and that is when the airline’s single aircraft, an A320 registered VT-ATF, will cross 10:00hrs of daily aircraft utilisation. When that happens, the average turnaround time will settle at 30 minutes, and the average block time of each flight will hover around 1 hour.
The airline is yet to utilise the aircraft in the period between 11:20hrs and 15:10hrs: when the aircraft is on ground for almost 4 hours. Disregarding this time on ground, the aircraft’s present utilisation efficiency (total block hours against total time the airplane is used for operations) touches 69%. This number will increase if the aircraft is used on longer sectors, when the airplane spends more time in air.
If the other flights in this pattern are to remain, then the aircraft can operate two 1:10hr block hour sectors in that near 4 hour period on ground.
A 1:10hr block flight (see the green range circle in the adjacent map) is possible if the airline flies to one of the following cities: Vijayawada, Hyderabad, Belgaum or Hubli. Hubli’s airport runway is 5,500ft long, and can just meet the runway requirements for the A320. Alternately, the airline can fly sub-1:10 sectors, which include Madurai, Coimbatore, and Mangalore.
Another interesting point is the timings of AirAsia India’s flights. For its Tier II destinations, AirAsia India’s flights do not compete with the competition. For example, between 12:30 and 13:00, there are three departures to Goa, operated by Indigo, SpiceJet, and Jet Airways, what may be considered the “peak” time for departures to the holiday destination Goa from Bangalore. AirAsia India however fills a wide gap, as seen in the graph for the period wise departures to Goa. As for Kochi, the airline operates flights at times that are not served by other airlines, ensuring a comfortable day return for business passengers to Kochi.
When it comes to the only Tier I city it serves out of Bangalore- Chennai-AirAsia India’s flights do not really fill a gap, but are timed to somewhat coincide with the “peak” timings-beating the early morning IndiGo flight by 20 minutes (and moved in the graph to the 5-6 slot for purposes of clarity although the departure is at 6:05hrs) and positioning itself well to offer another departure just before other airlines offer a string of departures in every time period between 19:00 and 23:00hrs.
Loads, however, on the early morning Bangalore-Chennai vv run aren’t as great as the Goa loads, hovering at 65-70% only.
It will only be prudent for an airline to now tap another relatively denser route. AirAsia India’s aircraft is on ground between 11:20hrs and 15:10hrs. With 30 minute turnarounds, the airline can operate a 11:50 departure to a destination to which the block time is 1:10, and operate the return at 13:30 from that destination.
Of the four cities that are a block hour 1:10hrs away, Hyderabad seems lucrative as it is a Tier I route. Interestingly, a departure at 11:50 will coincide with the period which appears to be favourable for departures to Hyderabad. Between 10:00hrs and 13:00hrs, there are five departures to Hyderabad from Bangalore. No other period is as dense.
With this analysis, Hyderabad appears to be a good destination to fly to. Vijayawada, Hubli, and Belgaum may not have the loads for economically viable 180 seat airplane operations; such destinations are presently serviced by SpiceJet’s 78 seat Bombardier Q400s and AirCosta’s 67 seat Embraer E170.
If Hyderabad ‘happens’, the airline’s sole aircraft’s utilisation will touch 12:35hrs: a very impressive figure considering Air Costa plans a maximum of 11:25hrs utilisation on its E170s, with 1 hour sectors (just like AirAsia’s sectors today) even with a 20 minute turn around. AirAsia manages this by starting operations one hour earlier and stopping two-and-a-half hours after Air Costa’s.
Interesting Turnaround targets: Touching the holy 25 minute
The pattern for their single aircraft reveal some interesting data. At Cochin and Bangalore, the airline targets a 25-minute turnaround at Bangalore and Cochin between the Chennai and Cochin flights, and the Bangalore and Cochin flights. These are the only two turnarounds that are in line with AirAsia Group’s target of 25 minutes for domestic flights. Interestingly, the 25 minute turnaround at Bangalore is planned between 8:30AM IST – 8:55AM IST: the peak period for aircraft movements at the airport, when chances for delays due to congestion are higher (look at the Bangalore airport traffic density in the graph on the right).
To facilitate a faster turnaround, AirAsia uses the aerobridges between flights: passengers are encouraged to deplane from the front (aerobridge) and the rear (stairs and then apron busses), while boarding is completed via the front entry only.
To be able to consistently meet a very short turnaround target of 25 minutes, AirAsia must resort to a method of queuing passengers in the order of last seat first in, to allow the cabin to settle faster. The practicality of such an implementation is another matter of discussion.