Airbus A380 to fly into India: 10 things to know

The Indian government lifted a landing ban on Airbus A380s, a jumbo jet commercial airliner, on Monday. This will enable carriers like Lufthansa, Emirates and Singapore Airlines to land their A380s at Indian airports.

Here are few things to know:

1)      The A380, called the Superjumbo, is one of the biggest aircraft in use in the world. It is double-decked with a maximum seating capacity of 853 passengers, according to Airbus. It was designed to compete with Boeing’s 747 in terms of size and passenger capacity.

2)      However, its massive size means airports have to upgrade their facilities to fit the A380. India has only four airports currently equipped to handle the A380. These are Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad.

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3)      India had issued a landing ban on the aircraft in 2011. This is because of fears that it will hurt Indian players like Air India. None of the Indian carriers have the Airbus A380 in their fleet. Only the now defunct Kingfisher Airlines ordered the aircraft in 2005. But the order was subsequently cancelled by the beleaguered airline in 2013.

4)      The current fleet of aircraft by Indian carriers has a lower passenger capacity than the Airbus A380. This affects pricing of tickets. Greater the passenger capacity and availability of seats, lower is the price. As a result, it was expected that allowing a foreign carrier to fly the A380 into and out of the country would harm Indian players.

5)      In a globalised world, it is not feasible to prevent an aircraft from entering Indian skies for too long. This is especially so at a time when India is looking to open its aviation sector to foreign players and make environment more conducive. Recently, foreign players were allowed to buy a 49% stake in Indian carriers through Foreign Direct Investment (FDI). Many players and privately-operated airports were lobbying to lift the ban.

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6)      “The operation of A380s will help airports to generate more revenue, give more comfortable and luxurious travel to passengers, (and will) liberalise the civil aviation milieu in India,” the civil aviation ministry said in a statement.

7)      However, the move will not have a big impact on passenger capacity. This is because India has a limit on the number of seats that can be allotted to passengers per week. According to the bilateral agreement with Abu Dhabi, only 54,000 seats per week are allowed. Some other agreements, like the one with Germany, specifically says only Boeing 747 can be allowed. In such cases, these individual agreements need to be amended before the Airbus A380 can be used.

8)      According to the aviation ministry, foreign players like Emirates, Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines had shown interest in operating A380s in India. However, according to a First Post report quoting airline statements, Lufthansa and Emirates did not have any immediate plans to fly the aircraft into the country. Singapore Airlines said it would consider flying A380s in India, according to a NDTV Profit report. The airline recently entered in to a joint venture agreement with the Tata Group to set up a full-fledged carrier in India. The move could also benefit carriers like British Airways, Etihad and Qatar Airways which have ordered for the A380.

9)      Customers will be the most benefited by the ban as it will have an impact on ticket pricing. The A380s will help bring down fares and make Indian aviation more cost-effective, according to a NDTV Profit report quoting Amber Dubey, partner and head of aerospace and defence at KPMG, a global consultancy. It will also boost the efficiency of airports, he added.

10)   Indian carriers like Air India, Jet Airways and IndiGo, however, will be affected by the lifting of the ban as they will not be able to match the fares offered by foreign carriers operating the A380, according to a Hindu Business Line report quoting Iqbal Mulla, President, Travel Agents’ Association of India.

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