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.
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.
Vistara, which is on track with its fleet expansion plans, received its 8th Airbus A320-232SL at Toulouse. The aircraft, registered VT-TTI and bearing manufacturer serial number (MSN) 6785, is flying from Toulouse to Delhi via Ras Al Khaimah International Airport (UAE), where it will stop for refuelling before continuing to Delhi.
This 8th aircraft, along with the recently accepted 7th aircraft (VT-TTH) will allow the airline to either expand or strengthen its network. The timing of the airplanes is good – allowing the airline to build capacity for the peak season – the months of October, November, December, and part of January.
The airline’s 9th aircraft is expected in the month of November. The airline will close calendar year 2015 with a fleet of 9 aircraft.
Vistara today flies to 11 destinations, with the 12th destination – Varanasi – being added on the 21st of October. All 8 airplanes will be flying 21st October onwards.
The airline, with the 8th aircraft, has the capacity to deploy an additional ~6 flights. Offering a morning BLR-DEL and an evening DEL-BLR is important to raise the appeal of the airline’s network. It will not be surprising if the airline adds a pattern that flies BOM-BLR-DEL-XXX(perhaps VNS?)-DEL-BLR-BOM, to offer its customers better connectivity to BOM and DEL from BLR.
The airline, which has flown nearly 6,50,000 passengers till end September 2015, is expected to cross the 1 million passenger mark by December 31st, 2015, considering the peak season and the addition of capacity with three new airplanes.
Vistara, India’s newest pan-India airline, took the trouble to prepare a report on the aviation sector in India, highlighting the numerous areas in which India can and must improve. The report also concluded that Indian aviation is blessed with undeniably strong fundamentals such as:
A large and fast growing domestic market with potential for sustainability.
A strategic location (geographic) enabling hubs / transit points for key international routes.
An abundance of tourism potential.
A strong technical and skilled workforce that can support aviation in various functions.
A traditionally service-driven culture, which augurs well for the hospitality industry.
The report went on to state that India is not a global aviation power today despite many such favourable characteristics because of poor decisions that have actively hindered the country’s aviation sector’s growth and competitiveness.
Key Take-aways, as summarized by the Vistara communications team:
1. Criticality of Aviation Sector
Aviation contributes to around 5% of GDP in leading global markets
3 billion people or 40% of the global population fly vs. low 1-2% penetration in India
Annual per capita seats in India are a quarter of China, Indonesia, Thailand
Aviation drives 27% of UAE GDP; 5.4% of US GDP
Aviation is growing rapidly in India; incremental passengers this decade was 3 times in previous 50 years
2. Potential of Indian civil aviation sector
Annual contribution of USD 250 billion to Indian economy by 2025
Employment creation to multiply 10 times to 2.3 million by 2050
Number of domestic passengers to grow 17 times to 1.1 billion by 2050
Number of international passengers to grow 10 times to 500 million by 2050
Domestic freight to increase eighteen times , and International freight more than eight times by 2050
Number of aircraft to multiply by 14 times to about 5600 by 2050
3. Policy Measures Required
1. Cost of doing business
Duties make ATF, which can constitute 30-35% of operating costs, 45% more expensive in India
Removal of sales tax will reduce ATF costs by 20% thus reducing operating costs by 7%, and stimulating air travel by around 8-9%
High taxation on MROs makes it cheaper to send aircraft abroad for maintenance, going against “Make in India" vision
Aeronautical charges are amongst the highest in the world
2. Ease of doing business
4 months in US vs. 90 days in UAE vs. more than a year and 10 agencies in India for getting an AOP
Simplification of RDG
3. Liberal Aviation regime
5/20: discriminatory to Indian airlines; impacts airlines’ risk mitigation and operational efficiencies
Indian airlines only use 26% of their bilateral rights
4. Invest in airport infrastructure, airspace management and skill development
Airport capacity shortage looms in 5 years
Additional airport capacity of 90 million passengers will be required each year from 2030 i.e. equivalent of Delhi and Mumbai airports combined
5. Focus on Safety
Access to expert and trained, fit-for-purpose resources are critical for DGCA
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.
Vistara, the TATA-SIA joint venture domestic full service airline based out of Delhi will connect Bangalore to Delhi and Mumbai effective 16th June 2015 (tomorrow), with one flight each way, each day. This will coincide with the 159th day of operation of the airline. The airline also doubles the Delhi-Lucknow and back frequency. In the process, the airline will withdraw one service between Mumbai and Ahmedabad (UK968 and UK953), reducing the weekly frequency to 6 from 13.
The Delhi-Lucknow sector is faring well for the airline.
After the addition of the new sectors and withdrawal of flights, Vistara will operate 237 weekly flights with six aircraft connecting 10 cities, deploying a weekly capacity of 35 million ASKs. This is a remarkable growth in just a little over six months of operations.
Of these 35 million ASKs, 21 million are deployed on category 1 (CAT I) routes that connect metros to metros. The remaining are deployed on CAT II routes (connecting ‘neglected’ regions with other cities), CAT IIA routes (connecting cities/towns within neglected regions), and CAT III routes (connecting other cities not included in CAT I, II and IIA). The capacity on CAT II, IIA, III routes are 12%, 2% and 51% of the CAT I capacity, meeting and exceeding the DGCA requirement for capacity deployment on these routes.
The airline’s six aircraft will fly up to 35 flights a day. One of the aircraft rotations fly up to 12:20 hrs, while the Bangalore rotation flies 8:55 hrs. The average aircraft utilisation will settle at 11:14hrs per aircraft per day. Typical turnaround time is 40-45 minutes.
The flight from Bangalore halts at Mumbai for 5:25 hours, sufficient to operate a Mumbai-Goa sector – something the airline isn’t keen on operating now due to the stiff competition on that route. The Delhi-Bangalore flight operates in the morning and the return in the evening, making it very convenient for a Delhi business traveller, but unattractive to a Bangalore based business traveller. For a corporate focussed airline, this sparse service is a surprise. AirAsia India, which caters to the leisure traveller, offers much better frequencies and timings for business travellers based at either city. The airline will increase frequencies on the Bangalore – Delhi sector with the induction of its 7th aircraft.
The airline however offers multiple other connections to Delhi from Bangalore via Mumbai, with the most attractive connection (direct, lowest cost) being featured at the bottom of the list of options. This may need to be corrected to sort by connections, rather than time of departure.
The airline’s target of a 9 aircraft fleet by end of calendar year 2015 still sticks. Two of the aircraft will be fitted with the wireless in-flight entertainment system, which will later be rolled out fleet wide after an evaluation on these two aircraft.
Vistara, which by end of year will be a true full service carrier with the IFE system, is launching a new in-flight menu offering from 1st July. The new menu is derived from the feedback received from customers over the last six months of operation.
The airline is tying up with multiple companies of the TATA group to offer cross-company benefits to customers.
The month of May was the first month of high travel demand (one of the two high domestic demand months in a calendar year) that Vistara witnessed. Load factors at the airline were 69%.
The airline’s relatively low brand awareness may be impacting the airline’s loads and perhaps in part its pricing power. Marketing activities at the airline may need to be stepped up to effectively communicate the benefits of a fairly less known and new product – premium economy, which accounts for 24% of the airline’s seats.
When the DGCA notified the public that TATA-SIA airlines, now operating under the brand name Vistara, had applied for an Air Operator Permit, the DGCA had made public the joint venture’s proposed route pattern, detailed below.
In the light of the temporary relaxation in meeting route dispersal guidelines handed to Vistara, The Flying Engineer analyses the proposed route pattern for year 1.
The proposed route pattern, as handed over to the DGCA during the application phase during April 2014, had listed Mumbai, Goa, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Srinagar, Jammu, Patna and Chandigarh as destinations – either non-stop or with one stop, from Delhi. Based on the weekly frequencies, we’ve computed the average daily frequency, and computed the capacity (in available seat kilometers – ASK) as per ICAO’s Air Transport Bureau (ATB) guidelines.
The proposed route pattern for one year generates enough capacity on CAT IIA, but generates a CAT II capacity that just meets or falls slightly short (0.18%) of meeting the capacity as stipulated by the existing (at the time of writing this piece) Route Dispersal Guidelines (RDG) as laid down by the Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA), India. However, the airline, in its original proposed route pattern, could notwhere have met the required capacity on CAT III routes, as shown in the table on top.
The airline’s present pattern, which includes DEL-BOM vv, and DEL-AMD-BOM vv, does not conform with the original proposed pattern. The frequency on DEL-BOM nonstop is already 21 a week, each way. The DEL-AMD-BOM pattern, which was to have kicked in during the second year of operations, started on the second day of the airline’s operations.
A very smart move that Vistara may have made is to push its requirement to meet the RDG three months later, which is April 2015 onwards. This benefits Vistara in two ways:
It allows the airline to make money in a lean season by flying on business routes which are not much affected by seasonal variations, while ramping up fleet and mainline network strength.
It will allow the airline to deploy disproportionally high capacity on CAT II/IIA and CAT III routes (to compensate for the first three months of operation, starting January 9th 2015) during the summer (Q1 FY15-16 / Q2 CY15), when demand for travel is high, due to a holiday season.
With this strategy, the airline may be able to minimise its losses in Q4 FY’15 and perhaps maximise its revenues in Q1 FY’16.
Statistically, Bangalore ranks the third among all cities in India as far as domestic passenger movements are concerned. In FY13-14, Bangalore witnessed 10.2 million passenger movements, which is after Delhi (24.2 million) and Mumbai (21.9 million). Besides Tier I cities, Ahmedabad had the highest traffic, of 3.6 million passenger movements. Going by Vistara’s priority in tapping lucrative, proven markets, Bangalore may be either the next Tier I destination or simply the next destination after Delhi, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Goa witnesses the third highest passenger movements among non-Tier I cities, and may also become the airline’s next Tier II destination (CAT III route). It will not be surprising to see Vistara choose Pune as another Tier II destination, soon. Pune had the second highest non- Tier I traffic after Ahmedabad, at 3.5 million movements.
The original pattern would have required an average of 51:40hrs of block time to be clocked, per day (which will vary on a daily basis based on non-daily flights). The actual daily block time would have been between 50:30hrs to 53:20hrs. Assuming a conservative 10hr aircraft utilisation – per day per aircraft, the airline will require 6 aircraft to fly the original proposed pattern. The airline already has two aircraft flying, and a third in Delhi. Two others are ready at Toulouse and will be delivered by March end (2015), taking the total to five. With one aircraft per 1.5 months expected post March 2015, Vistara may be able to fly its original planned network in May 2015, should it still hold. But considering that the airline may end 2016 with 13 Airbus A320-232SL aircraft, it is likely that Vistara will far outgrow its original proposed network, even with the backlog of RDG – mandated capacity that will have to be flown.
With this in mind, it may not be surprising to see Vistara expand its network to Guwahati, Kolkata, along with few other stations. The projected growth seems both achievable yet aggressive.
Network service and on time performance are important yet just two of many factors that influence people to choose an airline. Vistara is just one of three full service carriers in India, bringing with it a strong brand formed by established and well known players – Singapore Airlines and Tata Sons. This will attract the discerning traveller. Full service carriers play the yield game, generated largely by the first class in their aircraft – the business class. The airline has 16 business class seats on each of its aircraft.
However, the only product differences between a low cost carrier and the premium economy (36 seats) and economy sections (96 seats) of Vistara are the food, the renowned oriental style emphasis on service and higher pitch comfortable seats, as the airline offers no in flight entertainment options or support. How these two cabin sections of Vistara will compete with other airlines is to be seen. For example, for travel on February 15th between Mumbai and Delhi (based on a search at the time of writing this piece), airlines including Jet Airways charge as little as INR 3,000 one way, while Vistara holds its ground at 6,520 one way. Whether brand name will prevail in a generally cost sensitive market is to be seen. However, there is also an emerging trend amongst people with disposable income who look forward to enjoying their money.
Three days after securing its Air Operator Permit (AOP), Vistara opened for bookings, for flights 9th January 2015 onward. This marks the start of commercial operations in Q4 FY2014-15, a period which is traditionally the second weakest season for Indian domestic travel.
The airline places itself as a full service carrier (FSC), with a three class cabin.
Rows 1 – 4 feature a four abreast Business Class Cabin with 16 seats. The seats sport a 42-inch seat pitch, with a 7-inch recline. Business class passengers will be pampered with a meal service with fine linens and bone china tableware. Meal options – for all classes – are shown on the left. Business class passengers will have a separate check-in counter at airports. Passengers are entitled to 30kgs check in and 7kgs carry-on baggage. Fares are in two categories – Business Flexi and Business Saver, with the expensive former waiving off a change fee while allowing the ticket to be valid for 12 months.
Rows 5 – 10 feature a six abreast Premium EconomyClass Cabin with 36 seats. The seats sport a 33-inch seat pitch, with a 4.5-inch recline. This cabin section includes two emergency exits at rows 9 and 10. These rows offer a 36 inch legroom, but the recline is unavailable on row 9 and perhaps restricted on row 10 due to the cabin partition wall right behind. Passengers are entitled to food and beverage. Premier Economy class passengers will have a separate check-in counter at airports. Passengers are entitled to 20kgs check in and 7kgs carry-on baggage Fares are in two categories – Premium Flexi and Premium Saver, with the expensive former waiving off a change fee while allowing the ticket to be valid for 12 months.
Rows 11 – 27 feature a six abreast Economy Class Cabin with 96 seats. There are only 16 rows in this section, but the row numbering skips the number ’13’, misleading one to believe there are 17 rows. The seats sport a 30-inch seat pitch, with a 3.5-inch recline. The seat thickness will determine the actual legroom available. For example. IndiGo’s 29-inch seat pitch with its ultra slim dragonfly seats are thin enough to offer the equivalent of a 31-inch seat pitch legroom with standard seats. Passengers are entitled to food and beverage. Economy class passengers will have a separate check-in counter at airports. Passengers are entitled to 15kgs check in and 7kgs carry-on baggage Fares are in two categories – Economy Flexi, Economy Saver, and Economy Super Saver, with the expensive first option waiving off a change fee while allowing the ticket to be valid for 12 months.
In addition, passengers who have web-checked in will have a separate counter to drop off check-in baggage. The airline also offers an auto check in service, in which if the passenger has not self checked-in at 4 hours prior to scheduled departure time, the airline will auto check the passenger on the flight and send the boarding pass via SMS or email.
In total, every aircraft is configured with 148 seats.
The lower number of passengers and dedicated counters may check in a smooth experience. Being a FSC, load factors may hover around the 75% range, leading to just 111 passengers per flight, on average – possibly a smooth boarding experience.
Vistara’s IATA code is ‘UK’. On the first day of Operations – Friday, the 9th, January 2015, the airline will operate only on the Mumbai-Delhi and return sectors. Vistara’s regular flight numbers are expected to start with ‘9’. However, on January 9th, the airline will operate two flights to Mumbai from Delhi and one flight to Delhi from Mumbai, all with special flight numbers – 895, 890, and 228. Flights to and from Ahmadabad will commence the next day, on the 10th of January. With this, one aircraft will be stationed at Mumbai.
The first commercial flight will be operated as UK890, which Departs Delhi at 12:30IST and arrives at Mumbai at 14:45 IST.
The airline will commence operations with two aircraft, both Airbus A320-232SL, registered VT-TTB and VT-TTC. The airline will operate the following patterns from 10th January, with the first pattern for an aircraft out of Mumbai and the second for an aircraft out of Delhi. The pattern holds good for most days, with certain changes on Sunday. Reportedly, the pattern will run till 15th February 2015.
The airline will operate from Terminal 2 of Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport, and Terminal 3 of Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport.
Air Vistara, the newest Indian airline working towards an AOP, conducted its first two proving flights on 4th and 5th December, 2014, as officially confirmed by the airline. The first flight took off from Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport at around 22:10IST (16:40UTC) on December 4th and landed at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport at 5 minutes past midnight (00:05IST/18:35UTC) on 5th December. The return flight took off at 01:10IST (19:40UTC) and landed at Delhi at around 02:50IST (21:21UTC).
Proving flights are the last stage of a lengthy process involved in securing an Air Operator Permit (AOP). Considering that the proving flights may wrap up by 7th December, the AOP may be awarded on 15th December, after the completion of the FAA Audit of DGCA, which is hoped to be completed on the 12th December 2014. The airline may start operations early January.
When operations start, it will be the first full service carrier to be launched in a decade. Kingfisher airlines commenced operations in 2005 and no full service, pan-India carrier has since been launched.
The airline was awarded its NOC from the aviation ministry on the 3rd of April, 2014, and applied for an AOP on the 22nd of April, 2014. The eight month period between AOP application and approval is similar to the period taken to award AirAsia India’s AOP.
Vistara has two Airbus A320-232SL aircraft (A320/IAE V2527-A5 engines/Sharklet equipped) in its fleet, of which one is completed in the airline’s livery. The liveried aircraft performed the proving flight.
The airline plans to have six flights between Delhi and Mumbai in the first year of operations. Other destinations planned in the first year of services are Goa, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Srinagar, Jammu, Patna and Chandigarh. The DGCA’s Civil Aviation Policy CAP 3100 stipulates that the airline ‘will be required to conduct a minimum of 5 flight sectors on intended routes, with total duration of not less than 10 flight hours’. The Delhi – Mumbai route contributes to around 1hr 40 minutes one way, adding to 3:20hrs for both ways. The airline will have to fly another 6:40hrs. Should the airline fly Delhi-Bangalore and back, it will add around 4:40hrs. The balance 2:00hrs may be picked up by flying either to Ahmedabad or Patna and back.
The liveried aircraft, registered VT-TTB, is the first aircraft that the airline received on the 24th of September, 2014, at Toulouse. The second aircraft, registered VT-TTC, was handed over to the airline five days later, on the 29th of September, 2014. The first aircraft got its livery at Singapore, and landed back at Delhi on the 15th of October, 2014, coinciding with the 82nd anniversary of JRD Tata’s first commercial flight from Karachi to Mumbai.
Three other aircraft, registered VT-TTD, TTE, and TTF are at Toulouse, reportedly not delivered in the light of the uncertainty associated with the DGCA’s delay in granting the new airline company its Air Operator’s Permit. The fifth aircraft recently flew to Hamburg, Germany, where the cabin interiors are fitted.
The airline plans to have a fleet of current engine option (CEO) and new engine option (NEO) A320 aircraft. The first 20 Airbus aircraft are to be leased from BOC Aviation – a Bank of China company that has its origins in Singapore Airlines. The duration of the lease agreement is six years for the A320-200 CEO aircraft and twelve years for the A320-200NEO aircraft.
Everything – absolutely everything in the airline has a Singapore Airlines ‘stamp’.
On 25th September, TATA-Singapore Airlines, which will operate under the brand name Vistara, publicly announced the receipt of their first aircraft, an Airbus A320-232SL that arrived from Toulouse with a tech-stop (to refuel) in the middle east. The aircraft flew in all white – without the livery of the airline. The aircraft will eventually be either stickered or painted, and the aircraft’s delay in arrival will only push the start of operations to either end October or early November, after the airline can fly the aircraft on intended routes for a series of ‘proving’ flights to satisfy the DGCA’s Civil Aviation Policy CAP3100.
From Singapore Airlines
Vistara’s first aircraft – like the other 19 aircraft that are to be received over time, are leased from BOC Aviation. BOC Aviation is 100% owned by Bank of China, one of the largest banks in the world.
BOC aviation, headquartered in Singapore, was formerly SALE – Singapore Aircraft Leasing Enterprise, when it started operations in November 1993. When formed, SALE was a 50:50 ownership between Singapore Airlines and Boullioun Aviation Services. In the December of 2006, SALE was acquired 100% by the Bank of China (BOC) for US$965 million. In the July of 2007, it was renamed to BOC aviation, to reflect the change in ownership. With the support of BOC, BOC aviation was able to expedite its growth, from 100 planes in 2009 – over the first 16 years – to 246 owned and managed aircraft operated by 56 airlines worldwide in 2014- just five years later. BOC Aviation has another 196 aircraft on firm order, as of date.
BOC Aviation is headquartered in Singapore, and has leased airplanes to SpiceJet, and Jet Airways. Interestingly, the first ever lease to a Singapore Airline subsidiary or affiliate, although the lessor had its roots in Singapore Airlines. The 20 aircraft lease to Vistara is reportedly the largest leasing agreement in BOC Aviation’s history.
Of Singapore Airlines
TATA-SIA Airlines is a 51:49 joint venture between TATA Sons and Singapore International Airlines (SIA). SIA has invested US$ 49 Million. The TATAs, although a majority stakeholder, have no recent experience in the airline business, and the airline is expected to be pretty much run and managed by Singapore Airlines, although substantial ownership and effective control will be vested in Indian nationals. Singapore Airlines is expected to dictate how the airline will be run (executed). Vistara, a full service carrier, is expected to reflect a strong Singapore Airlines influence – at all levels of operations and perhaps even decisions.
The airline’s first aircraft was ferried from Toulouse by pilots Gopal Subramaniam and Mandhesh Singh. Gopal is Chief Pilot Line Operations, Technical & Quality at Vistara, and has joined from Singapore Airlines, where he still considers to be employed. Mandesh was flying the Airbus A330s for Singapore Airlines, and previously the A320s for SilkAir, and was part of the crew that inaugurated the direct Singapore-Coimbatore flight in 2007.
Phee Teik Yeoh, CEO of Vistara, has been with Singapore Airlines for nearly 23 years, and started his career with the airline as a Network Planning Analyst. Considering the CEO being a Singapore Airlines’ guy, and that he has held a wide spectrum of portfolios at SIA, prepping him for the role as a CEO, all management decisions and recommendations will pretty much be the way Singapore Airlines wants it.
At AirAsia India, none of the technical or managerial positions are held by any former AirAsia employees.
For Singapore Airlines
Historically, airlines which Singapore Airlines either has a stake in, or is a parent company of, have filled gaps in services of SIA. For example, routes dropped by Singapore Airlines, and later SilkAir, have been taken up by Tiger Airways. Together with its subsidiaries and affiliates, Singapore Airlines has managed an extensive network, catering to both business travellers and budget travellers. An Indian network was missing, and with Vistara, Singapore Airlines can offer its customers a near seamless experience and service – connecting them from various parts of India to its hubs at Singapore or stations in India, from where passengers can be connected to the rest of the world. With Singapore gradually losing out as a preferred global hub to the strategically located and aggressive Middle-East Asian hubs, through which a significant number of Indian passengers transit, capturing the Indian market, both directly and indirectly, is key. The Vistara strategy gains prominence in the light of the Jet – Etihad deal, which is aiding in diverting international traffic from India to the West.
Singapore’s deep involvement in the airline will bode well for Vistara – in terms of network, service, safety, and operational service metrics of on-time performance, in-flight service, and in-flight experience. Together with brand new aircraft, Vistara as a full service carrier driven by Singapore Airlines is poised to conquer the full service market over Indian skies.