A380 trouble in India

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Last year Emirates flew in Airbus SAS A380 at the opening of the new terminal in New Delhi. Since then, it has not returned as India does not permit to fly aircraft bigger than Boeing 747. India government has not acted on requests of top international airlines such as Emirates and Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) to allow bigger air crafts into the country.

The two airlines have been negotiating with the government to enter the country with A380, the worlds biggest passenger aircraft. According to Rishikesha Krishnan, who writes papers about Indias aviation industry, the policies are misguided and are aimed to protect state-owned Air India Ltd.

The rules deny choices for passengers and reduce competition for Air India. The carrier merged with state-owned Indian Airlines in 2007 and received 20 billion rupees ($449 million) of public funds since April 1, 2009.

A380 Advantages

The A380 allows to price tickets at a cheaper rate. Lufthansa, which flies to seven destinations in India with 52 weekly flights, is ready to operate A380s to New Delhi once they get permission.

Tim Clark, president of Emirates, said that they anticipate strong demand for superjumbo. Emirates presently own largest fleet of A380s in the world. However, Clark also stated that expansion plans depend on the Indian government.

A380 is a two-deck aircraft, with the first floor covering the entire aircraft. The A380 has a seating capacity of 525 people in a typical three-class configuration. It offers 14 flat-bed First Class Private Suites with electrically operated doors and 76 fully-flat seats in Business Class.

A shower with a timer is attached in first class. There is a fancy bar for business and first class passengers. A personal satellite phone is fitted to each seat on the A380 aircraft, which also carries a seat-back SMS and email service, along with seat to seat calling. There is also a “My USB” personal picture viewing facility.

The A380 has a wingspan of 262 feet (80 meters) and stands almost 80 feet tall from the ground to the top.

Boeing, on the other hand has a seating capacity of 416 people.

Airports in India have undergone renovation and runway extensions to accommodate the A380. In Delhi alone, the airport added three gates to accommodate A380. Kingfisher airlines is the only Indian carrier to have ordered A380. Allowing Emirates to fly A380 will intensify competition to Air India.

Air Indias Troubles

P.C.K. Ravindran, chairman of Kochi-based Institute of Applied Aviation Management, said,

So long as Air India is a state property, the government will have to take care of its interest.He also said Air India is not just competing with Emirates but also with Etihad, Air Arabia, and RAK Airways, and other Indian carriers flying to the Gulf.

Flights to the Gulf region accounted for 49 percent of Air Indias overseas services. Air India has about 53 weekly flights to Dubai, using Airbus 321 jets that can seat 172 people.

Air India has more problems. It is seeking 175 billion rupees ($3.93 billion) from the government to pay for salaries and maintain services. The company has not made any profit in the last four years. The airline is working on a financial restructuring plan to reduce a debt of 400 billion rupees ($8.9 billion) as of March.

Air India is struggling to make profits as foreign airlines have doubled their services to and from India in 2010 compared with six years ago.

Source: Bloomberg, NDTV

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