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IndiGo receives its first Airbus A320neo at Toulouse

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6E_ITC_Hangar

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.

6E_VT_ITC

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.

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On the A320 Neo, if you’re unlucky, you’ve got the last row

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SpaceFlex Vueling

IndiGo was supposed to have been the second airline to receive the Airbus A320 neo. Despite the delay, IndiGo will still be the first Indian airline to receive the A320 neos, followed by Go Air. Deliveries to IndiGo are likely to happen in the summer of this year. Lufthansa, the first customer of the variant, is already operating the neo albeit short routes within Germany, between Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and Berlin.

Seat maps published by Lufthansa allow one to compare the A320’s cabin with the A320 neo’s cabin. Both cabins are of identical length, but have a key difference in the layout: The aft two lavatories are moved to the rear bulkhead, reducing galley space, and making space for one extra row of seats (see the image on top). Lufthansa’s A320ceos has 168 seats in its cabin (across 2 classes), while the A320 neo with the rearranged ‘SpaceFlex’ cabin fits 180 seats (across 2 classes), as shown below.

CEO vs NEO LOPA

In the case of IndiGo and GoAir’s A320 neos, the cabin will be fitted with 186 seats (single class), 6 more than the present 180 seats fit in the cabin. Moving the lavatories towards the rear bulkhead, and eating into the galley space makes sense for low cost carriers, as the quantum of uplifted food is lesser than full service carriers. But the last row will be where the lavatories were earlier located.

The issue is not about sitting where the lavatories once were, but that the last row (which will be identified as row 31 on IndiGo and GoAir, and row 32 on all other airlines that skip the number ’13’ when identifying rows) will have no window, and little to no recline. This will, undoubtedly, become the least preferred row on the entire aircraft. To make things a bit more uncomfortable, the walls start moving inwards at that row, part of the taper of the aft fuselage.

Seat pitch on the 186 seat A320s will remain unaffected at 28/29 inches. But remember to keep an eye out for windowless row 31 and above.

Why the FIA’s case against the removal of the 5/20 rule is unjustified

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DEL Arpt

Today, India, for the size that it is, has only four airlines that fly international: Full service carriers (FSCs) Air India and its subsidiaries, and Jet Airways, and Low cost carriers (LCCs) SpiceJet and IndiGo. This is in contrast to the 10 airlines that operate domestic scheduled services in India, today. While Indian carriers flew 81 million domestic passengers in calendar year 2015 (CY2015), Indian carriers flew only 18 million passengers in the same period.

Only two airlines/airline groups operate short, medium and long haul international services: Air India and Jet Airways. Both airlines have diverse fleets: from short haul domestic ATR 72 turboprops to long haul international Boeing 777s. The LCCs in contrast have narrowbody jets that can cater only to short haul international services.

Due to the limitations of fleet and perhaps the lack of commercially attractive international destinations, LCCs IndiGo and SpiceJet deployed only 4.8% and 9.5% of their total flights on international, in CY2015. In contrast, Jet Airways (Including operations from the Jetlite AOP) deployed 22.1%, while Air India (Including Air India Express and Air India Regional (Alliance)) deployed 32.7% of its total flights on international. Air India and Jet Airways together contribute to 84.5% of all international departures by Indian carriers, while IndiGo and SpiceJet contribute to just 8.8% and 6.8% respectively.

This statistic shows IndiGo and SpiceJet are very small players in the international front, serving destinations at neighbouring countries. IndiGo operates only to five international destinations: Kathmandu (Nepal), Muscat (Oman), Singapore (Singapore), Bangkok (Thailand), and Dubai (U.A.E.), while SpiceJet operates only to six international destinations: Bangkok (Thailand), Colombo (Sri Lanka), Dubai (U.A.E), Kabul (Afghanistan), Male (Maldives), and Muscat (Oman).

Air India and Jet Airways started operations before the 5/20 rule was instated in the year 2005. IndiGo and SpiceJet started operations after the 5/20 rule was introduced. The 5/20 rule requires airlines to operate domestic services for a minimum period of five years, after which it can fly international only if the airline has a fleet size of 20 or greater.

Air India Express was the only airline to start immediate international operations (although on an AOP different from Air India) after the 5/20 rule was introduced. The first flight of the airline was an international flight.

Neither IndiGo nor SpiceJet fought the 5/20 rule at that time as the focus of both airlines then, as it is today, is to tap the potential of the domestic market. SpiceJet started international operations in October 2010, while IndiGo commenced international operations in September 2011. Despite both LCCs having started international operations nearly five years ago, when the scale of domestic operations were smaller, both airlines chose not to focus on international operations. (See IndiGo’s fleet induction, here) Both airlines always had the option of inducting larger aircraft to serve destinations beyond the surrounding Asian and Middle East countries. But such is not their business model.

As a result, the only Indian carriers to majorly serve international are Air India and Jet Airways, both of which were not ‘victims’ of the 5/20 rule, whereas IndiGo and SpiceJet, which chose to focus on domestic even though they started international operations five years ago, are ‘victims’ of the 5/20 rule, strongly opposing the removal of the a rule that means nothing, and does not impact either airline..

Go Air

Go Air started operations in the year 2005, but chose not to increase its fleet beyond 19 aircraft. It deferred its 20th aircraft, which was readied by Airbus. As a result, the airline does not fly international, and seems to have no issues remaining a domestic player. Yet, the airline opposes the removal of the 5/20 rule, though it chose not to operate international.

Wasted capacity

In the quarter ending 31st December 2015, a total of 12.6 million international passengers were carried by both Indian and international airlines. Of that number, Indian carriers flew just 4.5 million passengers, or just 36% of the total traffic.

India is underutilising its bilaterals, due to restrictions placed by rules such as the 5/20. For the purpose of this case, and for want of time, we consider only three international destinations: Singapore, Bangkok, and Kuala Lumpur.

Stats India Foreign Airline

As of late February 2016, there are three airlines from Singapore that operate to 13 destinations in India. Singapore Airlines, Tiger Airways and Silk Air together operate 134 flights per week to India, from Singapore, and an equal number of return flights. Together, the airlines deploy 30,517 seats per week between Singapore and India, in each direction, using a variety of aircraft: Airbus A319s, A320s, Boeing 737-800s, Airbus A330s, Boeing 777-200s, 777-300s, and Airbus A380.

In contrast, three Indian airlines (four if you count Air India Express separately) connect Singapore to only four destinations in India. Air India, Air India Express, Jet Airways and IndiGo together operate 63 flights per week between the two countries. Together, the airlines deploy just 13,244 seats per week between Singapore and India, in each direction, using Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-800s, Airbus A330-300s, and Boeing 787-8s.

Thai Airways, Thai AirAsia, and Bangkok Airways operate from Bangkok to eight destinations in India, flying 73 flights and deploying 19,497 seats per week, Using Airbus A320s, Boeing 747s, 777-200s, 777-300s, Airbus A330-300s, and Boeing 787-8s.

In contrast, SpiceJet, IndiGo, Jet Airways and Air India together operate 62 flights, deploying 12,474 seats per week, from four Indian destinations to Bangkok, using Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-800s, 737-900s, and Boeing 787-8s.

From Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia Berhad, AirAsia X, Malindo, and Malaysian Airlines operate 180 flights to 12 Indian destinations, deploying 32,903 seats per week between Malaysia and India, using Airbus A320s, Boeing 737-800s, 737-900s, and Airbus A330-300s.

In contrast, only Air India Express operates to Kuala Lumpur, connecting only Chennai to the Malaysian capital with 4 weekly flights and deploying 744 seats per week.

While not all destinations are commercially viable, there is a huge mismatch between the capacity deployed by foreign carriers, and the capacity deployed by Indian carriers, on the same set of routes. Infact, the superior connectivity offered by foreign carriers is not matched by Indian carriers, leaving a large scope for more Indian carriers to boost the Indian economy while also providing international passengers seamless domestic connectivity.

The 5/20 rule must go if India should see it’s own airlines connect India with the rest of the world.

What the FIA won’t tell you

The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), have something against the airlines of the Father of Indian Aviation (FIA), Late JRD Tata. The Tata’s have already done enough to promote connectivity within India: TATA airlines was renamed Air India.

The FIA (Federation) is shaken by the prospects of airlines such as Vistara and AirAsia India. The goal of the FIA is to restrict the operations of such airlines to within India, so that players like the market leader can use its low cost base to lower fares on every route such airlines fly, and bleed the airlines dry. Starting with the smallest and the least capitalised airlines, airlines will knock off the Indian scene, one by one, leaving only a few to operate in India, with the market player enjoying a huge monopoly in setting fares. At that point in time, India will suffer, with neither good international connectivity, nor with strong domestic competition nor worthy alternatives.

While the FIA blames consultancy firm KPMG of auditing Singapore Airlines and consulting for the government, it remains silent on consultancy firm CAPA.

CAPA India, in its Aviation Outlook 2016, stated, “Despite repeated statements by the Minister that there is no logic to the 5/20 rule and that it should be abolished, the discriminatory regulation still remains in place”.

Guess which consultancy firm’s services was sought for IndiGo’s Red Herring Prospectus? CAPA India.

Why the 90 seat Q400 had to be announced at the Singapore Air Show

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Nok Air Q400

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.

Then, in December, ATR received EASA certification for a 78 seat variant of its ATR 72-600 (click here to read), which offered a single class seating with 28 inches seat pitch, with Cebu Pacific of Philippines as the launch customer.

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.

Analysing IndiGo’s performance in Q3’16

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6E A320 BIAL

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.

Click here to access the analysis.

Deciphering the 2015 Indian Aviation growth story

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Chart 1

The year 2015 has been a remarkable year for Indian domestic aviation. The growth in domestic passenger numbers, and the start of many new airlines, has undoubtedly led everyone to believe that 2015 is the third boom in Indian aviation.

But how did 2015 register a strong 20% growth in domestic passengers? Was it mere addition of capacity, or was it more? What triggered the growth? This and more, when you click here.

Air Costa receives its third Embraer E190 at Jordan

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Air Costa E190 third aircraft

Air Costa on Saturday the 19th, received its third Embraer E190 at Ammam,  Jordan. The aircraft’s original lessor is GE Capital Aviation Services (GECAS), and the aircraft previously flew for Saudi’s Flynas. The aircraft is one of two E190s earlier destined for another southern regional yet-to-start airline in India. Both airplanes, MSN 217 and MSN 233 have now been leased by Air Costa. Both aircraft are aged 7 years, and configured with 110 seats in a single class.

The first aircraft, which will be registered VT-LPB, is expected to tomorrow (21st December) fly into Delhi. Air Costa presently operates two E190s, MSN 593 and MSN 608, which are the E190 STD variant. The ones from Flynas are the E190 LR variant, which have a maximum take-off weight that is 2,500 kg heavier, allowing it up to 900 km (500 nautical miles) longer range when compared to the E190 STD, when flying with a load of 100 passengers.

The first of the two E190STD aircraft is expected to enter service on the 26th of December, 2015. On the 25th, Air Costa’s E190STD VT-LVR (MSN 608) will fly out to Jordan for scheduled heavy maintenance. The maintenance-bound aircraft will operate a special Chennai-Bengaluru flight LB712, before proceeding to Jordan. The active fleet at the airline will remain at 3 aircraft, until VT-LVR returns from maintenance, to take the fleet to 4 active aircraft. In November, the airline returned one of its 67 seat E170s (VT-LSR / MSN 278), which took the active fleet down to 3 aircraft. The other E170’s (VT-LNR / MSN 293) lease contract was extended by another nine months. The third E190 will therefore result in no net additions to Air Costa’s fleet size.

Activities such as return of aircraft, and scheduled and unscheduled maintenance of aircraft have led to numerous flight cancellations that threaten profitability in the peak season. Air Costa had last year reported a modest profit in the month of December. Fuel prices have fallen, since then.

Air Costa recently received a no objection from the Ministry towards securing a pan India air operator permit (AOP). According to news sources, Air Costa plans to induct the fourth E190 in February 2016, and commence pan India operations in April 2016. By then, the airline will have a fleet of 5 active aircraft. The airline completes 30 months of operations in March 2016.

Why Jet Airways meant much for Brussels

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A330-200 Jet Airways

Brussels in Belgium presently serves as a ‘scissor hub’ for Jet Airways, for which it dedicates all four of its Airbus A330-330s configured with 34 Première and 259 Economy seats, totalling 293 seats per aircraft. These four A330s, registered VT-JWR/S/T/U, fly to only 4 cities: Delhi, Mumbai, Newark, and Toronto, through the scissor hub at Brussels. No aircraft are parked, no crew are stationed, but the role of Brussels is to allow passengers from Delhi and Mumbai to fly onward to either Newark or Toronto, and vice-versa, while also catering to passengers originating at, or destined for Brussels.

The beauty of this hub is how all four A330-300s from Newark (9W227), Mumbai (9W228), Toronto (9W229), and Delhi (9W230) arrive at Brussels in just a 5 minute window, between 7:45 – 7:50 in the morning, everyday, only to leave 2:30 hours later, together. The four aircraft arrive and depart together.

Passengers from Mumbai transit through Brussels onward to Newark, and vice-versa. Passengers from Delhi transit through Brussels onward to Toronto, and vice-versa. But passengers from Mumbai will need to be transferred at Brussels to the other aircraft to continue to Toronto, and vice-versa. Passengers from Delhi will need to be transferred at Brussels to the other aircraft to continue to Newark, and vice-versa.

Everyday, Jet Airways contributes 8 flights to Brussels, flying in a daily capacity of 2,344 seats, or 855,560 seats annually, of which nearly 75% of seats are filled up to contribute to nearly 650,000 passengers originating, departing, transiting, or transferring at Brussels. 33 Brussels based staff are employed, 75% of which are Belgians.

In the calendar year 2014, Brussels had 22 million passengers use its airport, of which nearly 3% was contributed to by Jet Airways, despite the airline contributing to just over 1% of aircraft movements. Further, of the top ten overseas (outside Europe) destinations from Brussels, New York (JFK & Newark/EWR), Mumbai, Toronto, and Delhi feature in the list. While New York is at the first position, Mumbai is at the 6th place, Toronto in the 8th, and Delhi at 10th.

Jet Airways is the only airline to directly connect Brussels to Toronto, Mumbai, and Delhi, and is one of just four airlines to directly connect Brussels to New York / Newark. Jet Airways enjoys nearly 32% market share on the Brussels – New York/Newark direct route, and 100% on the other three routes.

Nearly 30% of the passengers flying to/from the top ten overseas destinations from Brussels are carried by Jet Airways.

Jet Airways’ operations have thus meant much to Brussels.

Jet Airways has cited commercial reasons for shifting the airline’s European gateway to Amsterdam,  which is just 160 kilometres to the north of Brussels, effective March 27, 2016. The airline states that a new strategic code share partnership with KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Delta Air Lines will significantly enhance connectivity between India – Europe and North America.

However, the airline will be dropping its flights to Newark from its new European gateway, and while all three flights (To Delhi, Mumbai and Toronto) depart Amsterdam at nearly the same time, they will arrive at Amsterdam in a window of 1 hour 15 minutes. Jet Airways will continue to commit the A330-300 to the European gateway, but will free up one aircraft, allowing it to deploy it on a pattern that is not yet publicly known.

In contrast to Brussel’s 22 million passengers in CY2014, Amsterdam’s Schipol airport handled 55 million passengers in the same period, perhaps promising Jet Airways better commercial prospects.

(Picture on top shows an A330-200, the shorter variant of the A330-300 discussed in this piece).

Same aircraft family, different hands: Boeing 737NG flown by the Air Force and an airline

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K5014 Karthik Kumar

Today, Prime Minister Narendra Modi flew into Cochin from Delhi on Indian Air Force One, operated by an Indian Air Force Boeing 737-700 Boeing Business Jet (BBJ) with tail number K5014. The way in which the airplane was flown was interesting, and different from the way in which a similar aircraft operating for a scheduled airline is flown. We compare the way in which the military 737 was flown, with the way in which a commercial 737-800 was flown on the same route.

K5014 vs VTSZA DEL-COK Dec 14 2015

The 737-700BBJ’s lateral flight path is compared with the lateral flight path of a Boeing 737-800 VT-SZA operated by SpiceJet today on Delhi-Cochin as SG 561. What stands out is that the flight path of the military 737 is curvy, and not straight unlike the SpiceJet 737, strongly indicating that the flight was manually controlled, either by being hand flown throughout or by manual heading inputs to the autopilot. It does point to neither the autopilot’s VOR/LOC function, nor the FMS-controlled lateral navigation being used.

737 India Air Force OneThe vertical flight path shows that the Prime Minister’s flight (image on the left shows Him beside the 737 at Cochin) was not optimized for fuel burn. The aircraft climbed to 31,000ft (odd level altitude) when headed in the easterly direction, and as it changed direction over Hyderabad to a westerly direction, the aircraft descended to 30,000ft (even altitude). A BBJ, usually being light, can fly much higher than 31,000ft. The optimum altitude for an airplane gets higher as it gets lighter, and it could have step climbed rather than step-descended over Hyderabad.

The SpiceJet 737, in contrast, flew at 37,000ft till over Hyderabad. By then, the airplane was lighter, having burnt most of the flight’s trip fuel. Over Hyderabad, when turning towards Cochin, it step climbed to 38,000ft – just as one would expect for optimal fuel burn.

A valid argument would be the winds at altitudes that could have impacted the military 737’s decision to fly at a lower altitude. The SpiceJet flight and the military 737 flight were 5 hours apart. However, IndiGo’s VT-IEM operating 6E 289 DEL-COK took off just 28 minutes after the Air Force 737, climbed to 35,000ft and then to 36,000ft over Hyderabad. IndiGo’s aircraft in fact picked up 13 minutes enroute, to land just about 15 minutes after the Air Force 737, clearly showing that winds at higher altitude were not unfavourable.

The intent of this piece isn’t to highlight who flies better, but rather to appreciate some of the differences between air transport flights in the military and in the commercial world. Vastly different priorities may explain the differences in flying. In the airline world though, it is all about minimising costs at every little opportunity.

Thanks to Karthik Kumar for the image of K5014.

IndiGo to fly India’s longest daily domestic flight effective 7th January 2016

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6E A320

IndiGo will launch a direct daily flight between Delhi and Trivandrum (Thiruvananthapuram) on 7th January 2016, making it the longest domestic direct daily flight to be presently offered in India, with a block time of 3:15 hours.

6E 533 will fly DEL-TRV effective 7th January 2016, and 6E352 will fly TRV-DEL effective 8th January 2016.

No other operator offers direct flights between the two cities.

The flight will cover a great circle distance of 1201 nautical miles (NM) or 2,224 km.

Presently, the longest direct daily domestic flight in India is between Mumbai and Guwahati, operated only by IndiGo, with a great circle distance of 1,119 NM and a block time of 3:00 hrs from BOM-GAU, and 3:30hrs from GAU-BOM. The 30 minute difference is due to headwinds when flying from Guwahati to Mumbai, which serve as tailwinds when flying from Mumbai to Guwahati.

Thanks to Ameya: The longest domestic flight is Port Blair – Delhi (1,339 NM) operated by Air India regional on their CRJ 700s on Fridays and Sundays.

Problem with the engine makes IndiGo now the third operator to induct the A320neo

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320neo_pW_1127_g_jm

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.

The A320-271N was certified late November 2015.

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.

ATR 72 is now EASA certified for 78 seats

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Cebu Pacific ATR 72

ATR received EASA certification for its high-density cabin layout which fits 78 seats, using the existing airframe which was until recently certified for a maximum of 74 seats. Cebu Pacific, the leading Phillipines low cost airline, is the launch customer of this new configuration of the ATR 72-600. The airline had formally announced an order for 16 ATR72-600s during the Paris Air Show with options to acquire an additional 10 ATR 72-600, worth US$673 million at list prices.

Cebu Pacific will receive its 78 seat aircraft in August 2016. According to ATR, ” The additional seats are very valuable for airlines operating in the regions where traffic grows rapidly and the demand is highly sensitive to fare”. According to Thierry Casale, ATR Senior Vice President Programmes, “The demand comes from airlines, especially in the Southeast Asian market, requesting to further optimize the cabin space and to increase the number of available seats for regional flights”.

Q400 vs ATR 72 High Density 86 78 seatsIn August 2014, Thailand’s Nok Air took delivery of an 86 seat Bombardier Q400, becoming the launch operator for the extra capacity seating configuration. Bombardier was able to squeeze in 86 seats at 29 inches seat pitch by shifting the aft galley into the aft cargo hold, thereby reducing aft cargo space by 20%. Forward baggage hold is done away with.

ATR can pack in 78 seats by reducing seat pitch to 28 inches, downsizing and moving the aft galley into the rear cargo compartment, and by placing two rear facing seats in the first row, which take up a part of the otherwise forward right cargo hold, thereby reducing forward cargo space. ATR’s target is an 80 seat ATR 72, which will be possible only with four, rear facing seats on the first row. Such seats do not recline.

The configuration is built with the current SFE Geven Classic seats, requiring no special or different seats.

Interestingly, demand for these configurations have come exclusively from South East Asian low cost operators. According to a study that the ‘Association of Southeast Asian Nations DNA’ conducted, Filipinos are the second shortest race in the South East Asian region, with males measuring 5 feet 3.7 inches. Thailand’s males are the second tallest, at an average 5 feet 6.9 inches. This makes Filipino men 4.8% shorter than the average Thai man, while a 28 inch seat pitch is only 3.4% lesser than a 29 inch seat pitch. Assuming similar thin seats on both aircraft, Filipinos, due to their height, may feel as comfortable, if not more comfortable, than Thai men flying in the high density Q400.

Indonesian males are the shortest in the South East Asian region, at 5 feet 2 inches, which makes the 78 seat variant well suited for the Indonesian market. If airlines are scientifically driven, airlines in other countries may not opt for the 78 seat variant, unless the business model decides otherwise.

The 78 seat ATR 72 seats 4 more than the until-recent maximum of 74. Assuming a 100% seat factor, 4 extra passengers will burn around 11 kg additional fuel on a 250NM sector, assuming ancillary cargo remains unchanged. This results in a 1.3% fuel burn increase on a 250NM sector, or a 0.65% increase in costs assuming fuel is 50% of the total operating expenses. Yet, due to the four additional seats, the cost per seat, after including the fuel increase, drops by 4.5% on a 250NM sector. We ignore possible increased maintenance costs due to slightly higher stressed operations.

This allows an airline to drop average fares by down to 4.5% to remain competitive in the market at unchanged margins.

Air Costa’s active fleet reduces to 1 active aircraft today, operates 8 flights as it returns its second Embraer E170.

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E170 goodbye

Air Costa today flew only one aircraft, its Embraer E190 registered VT-LVR. VT-LNR, the lone Embraer E170 in Air Costa’s fleet operated its last commercial flight yesterday. Sistership VT-LSR was flown to Lisbon and returned to the lessor on 22nd November.

The E170 will be tomorrow (28th November) be flown to Jordan’s capital, Ammam, as its lease comes to an end.

Today, Air Costa operated only 8 flights: MAA-AMD-BLR-JAI-BLR-HYD-BLR-AMD-MAA, resulting in the cancellation of 28 flights.

The airline was supposed to have resumed operations of its other E190, VT-LBR, today (27th November). However, the aircraft is on its return from Jordan at the time of writing this. VT-LBR is flying into Bengaluru, from where it will operate a non-commercial ferry to Chennai early next morning, from where it will operate scheduled flights.

From tomorrow (28th November) onwards, Air Costa is expected to operate 16 flights a day, with 2 Embraer E190s. The MAA-HYD-VTZ-BLR-VTZ-HYD-MAA-JAI-MAA pattern, which was suspended since 16th November, will be resumed.

With the return of the E170, flights to Coimbatore, Tirupati and Vijayawada remain suspended till 4th December.

The airline’s website reflects flights on the VGA-BLR-CJB-HYD-VGA-HYD-TIR-HYD-CJB-BLR-VGA pattern available from 5th December. This pattern will be operated by the Embraer E190, suggesting that the E190s are expected by the 5th of December.

However, the 4th pattern for the E190s could not be determined.

The airline may perhaps not be able to secure its pan-India AOP until the 5th Embraer E190 is inducted into its fleet.

Air Costa’s flight cancellations in the month of November has been very high, and may have the highest cancellation rate among all airlines for the month.

AirAsia India reports a net loss of INR 65.2 crore in Q2’16, stellar cost improvement but disappointing revenue performance. Total losses accumulate to around INR 200 crore

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VT-ATF_Edit_Cropped

Summary:

  1. Net loss INR 65.2 crore.
  2. Excellent work in reducing unit costs in Q2’16, exceeded expectations.
  3. Disappointing revenue performance.
  4. Excellent ancillary revenues.
  5. Accumulated losses around 200 crore, losses since start of operations around INR 150 crore.
  6. Financial & certain performance data reported by AirAsia India is inconsistent, inaccurate, and unreliable.

Data Discrepancy

Before we begin the analysis of AirAsia India’s performance, it must be noted that the quarter reports of AirAsia are unreliable, on at least four counts, as observed:

  1. The quarter report for Q1’16 (“SECOND QUARTER REPORT ENDED 30 JUNE 2015”) states that in Q1’15, AirAsia India reported a net loss of RM 0.4 Million. However, the quarter report for Q1’15 (“SECOND QUARTER REPORT ENDED 30 JUNE 2014”) states that AirAsia India reported a net loss of RM 13.8 Million. This translates to a difference of RM 13.4 Million / INR 25.9 crore.
  2. The quarter report for Q4’15 (“FIRST QUARTER REPORT ENDED 31 MARCH 2015”) states that in Q4’14, AirAsia India reported a net loss of RM 12.4 Million, which, based on the RM-INR conversion rate prevalent then, converts to INR 22.7 crore. However, the P&L statement in the same Q4’15 report states that AirAsia India had a net loss of only INR 8 crore.
  3. The quarter report for both Q2’16 (“THIRD QUARTER REPORT ENDED 30 JUNE 2015”) and Q2’15 (“THIRD QUARTER REPORT ENDED 30 JUNE 2014”) states that in Q2’15, AirAsia India recorded a net loss of RM 15.7 Million, which converts to INR 29 crore based on the RM-INR conversion rate prevalent then. However, in the Q2’16 report, AirAsia India is stated as having incurred a net loss of INR 52.9 crore.
  4. The flown capacity (ASK) reported by AirAsia India in its quarterly reports is 12%, 5% and 3% higher than what the airline has reported to the DGCA in Q2’16, Q1’16, and Q415. However, in teh two sources of data, the number of flights by the airline match perfectly, and the number of passengers flown are reasonably close.

As a result of (3), we will refrain from comparing Q2’16 data with Q2’15 data, but will only compare Q2’16 data with Q1’16 and Q4’15 data.

As a result of (4), we will refrain from using the AirAsia India flown capacity as reported in the quarterly reports, as this leads to very misleading performance numbers. We stick to the DGCA data.

We had already mentioned the first three points, but the discovery of issue (4) made us withdraw our earlier analysis and revise the numbers. This is the revised analysis.

Accumulated Losses

Due to the ambiguity resulting from points (1), (2) and (3) above, the total losses accumulated by AirAsia India including Q2’16 is around INR 200 crore. Total losses since start of commercial operations (ignoring June 2014) stands at INR 150 crore as reported by AirAsia India.

Q2’16 Analysis

Q2’16 (July 01st – September 30th, 2015) was AirAsia India’s first full quarter of 5 aircraft operations. In this period, the airline flew 416,182 passengers (excluding no shows: 401,905. No shows : 3%), which is a 38% rise compared to Q1’16, though the number of flights increased by 50%. This explains Q2’16’s load factors of 76%, as against Q1’16’s load factors of 83%. The load factors in Q2’16 were lower than the 79% witnessed in the other lean season – Q4’15. Load factors include no show passengers.

The airline operated 34 daily flights as of 30th September 2015, and flew its millionth passenger in the first half of August 2015.

AirAsia Q2'16 results vs Q1'16 Q4'15 redone DGCA numbers

Revenue

Q2 is historically a lean season. Capacity in Q2’16 grew by 56% over Q1’16, despite flights increasing by only 50%. This is in line with the average stage length of each flight increasing to 1,208 km/flt from 1,146 km/flt. Low load factors, increase in average stage length, and the low pricing power in the lean season have together resulted in the average fare dropping to INR 2,684 in Q2’16 from INR 3,350 in Q1’16. In Q2’16, AirAsia India did not inaugurate any new routes, but added a frequency on the Bengaluru – Vizag sector, and hence, there was no significant effect of low yields due to new routes.

Ancillary revenues at the airline have picked up very well. From being just 8% of total revenue in Q4’15, to 10% in Q1’16, it touched 15% in Q2’16. This has been aided by the increase in cargo per flight, to an average of 1,205 kg per flight in Q2’16 compared to 1,074 kg/flt in Q1’16 and 971 kg/flt in Q4’15.

However, on a unit basis, the airline’s revenue per available seat kilometre (RASK) suffered a 27% drop from Q1’16 figures, to settle at INR 2.22/seat-km, due to the factors mentioned in the preceding paragraphs. The unit revenues are 22% lower than the Q4’15 lean season.

Costs

AirAsia India’s cost performance is very good, and has touched record low values in Q2’16.

Unit aircraft fuel expenses fell by 13% in Q2’16 compared to Q1’16, despite fuel prices falling by only 9%. Higher average stage length of 5% can only contribute little to improved fuel consumption. However, tankering and uplifting fuel from stations with low sales tax on fuel may explain a part of the lower fuel expenses. Sales tax at Vishakhapatnam is just 1%, Goa 12.5%, Guwahati 22%, Imphal 20%, and Delhi 20%. Delhi, Guwahati, Imphal and Vishakhapatnam operations, and increased operations to Goa in Q2’16 may have significantly contributed to the drop in fuel costs.

Inexplicably, the staff costs have dropped in Q2’16 compared to Q1’16, from INR 31 crore to INR 29 crore. While there is no obvious explanation for such a drop, it has resulted in the unit staff costs to drop by 41% in Q2’16.

Unit maintenance costs have increased by 2% in Q2’16.

Due to longer flights, capacity has increased by 56% but flights by only 50%, in Q2’16 compared to Q1’16 resulting in the 7% drop in unit user charges and related expenses, which are largely a per-flight expense.

Unit lease expenses have dropped significantly by 29% in Q2’16, attributable to increased aircraft utilisation, higher capacity and no aircraft having to remain on ground in Q2’16. Average lease rental per aircraft per month is INR 2 crore.

Other operating expenses, most of which are fixed, have been diluted by the higher capacity, dropping by 25% in Q2’16.

Other Income, which is treated as part of operations by AirAsia India, increased by 10%, positively impacting the bottom line.

The cumulative effect of increasing frequency, network changes, and increased aircraft utilisation, amongst others, has reduced unit total operational costs at AirAsia India by 21% (including other income which can also be a negative quantity as in Q4’15). This is a brilliant performance, though the drop in staff costs is yet to be clearly identified. One explanation is perhaps the reduction in training expenses due to stagnation of fleet growth, and perhaps the voluntary exit of certain crew.

Break Even Figures

In Q2’16, AirAsia India realised a per-passenger cost of INR 4,621, which is 10% lower than the INR 5,166 cost per passenger in Q1’16, but 15% higher than the INR 4,009 cost per passenger in Q4’15.

In Q1’16, AirAsia India incurred a loss of INR 1,469 per passenger. At the same unit passenger revenue of INR 3,154, AirAsia India would have needed a break-even load factor of 112%.

AirAsia India lost INR 1.04 per seat flown every kilometer, which is 5% lower than INR 1.09/seat-km in Q1’16, but 30% higher than the unit loss incurred in Q4’15.

Cost Structure

AirAsia India Cost Structure Q2'16AirAsia India’s cost structure is depicted in the pie chart. Fuel constitutes 36% of the airline’s expenses.

Cancellations and OTP

Only 6 flights were cancelled by AirAsia India, in Q2’16. The airline operated 3,032 flights, with an average on time performance (OTP) of 87%.

Q3’16 forecast

In Q3’16, AirAsia India inducted its 6th aircraft into operations, in the second half of November 2015. Daily flights have gone upto 40, with increase in frequencies and the inauguration of a new route, Delhi – Vishakhapatnam.

Our forecast for AirAsia India’s performance in Q3’16:

  1. Quarter’s Load factors to increase to around 85%.
  2. Capacity to increase by 12% and passengers carried (including no shows) to touch around 520,000.
  3. Average unit passenger revenue may rise by around 20%+ compared to Q2’16.
  4. Certain unit costs to slightly increase due to addition of 6th aircraft and sending one aircraft for half a month for scheduled heavy maintenance.
  5. Certain unit costs to very slightly increase due to weather related delays and diversions.
  6. Ancillary Revenue percentage to drop in light of higher average fare.
  7. For break even, unit passenger revenue must rise by around 45% (compared to Q2’16)
  8. Very slim chance of an operational break-even. More likely in Q1’17 (April – June 2016).

Airbus A320NEO (A320-271N) receives Type Certification, IndiGo to soon receive first aircraft

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A320 NEO Certified

9th sub-variant of the Airbus A320-200 to get certified.

Exactly 14 months since the first Airbus A320NEO took to the skies on September 25th, 2014, the aircraft has won a joint FAA and EASA type certificate, today.

The Type Certificate however is for the A320NEO powered by the Pratt and Whitney PW1127G-JM Geared Turbofan Engine. This aircraft variant is A320-271N.

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.

Airbus_A320_worksharing

IndiGo: Desperate for Capacity

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IndiGo A320 first NEO

IndiGo has turned out to be a consistently aggressive player. The 9 year old airline, which went public when fuel prices were at their lowest and profits at their highest, already flies 98 Airbus A320 current engine option (CEO), and is soon expected to add its 99th airplane. Then, the Airbus A320 new engine option (NEO) starts getting delivered. The magnitude of the airline’s orders, and the airline’s share of the first 35 aircraft to be delivered dwarfs every other airline.

Out of the 98 airplanes that the airline flies, 84 are part of the 100 airplane order that the airline placed in the year 2005. 16 aircraft were returned to the lessor, and those were the only airplanes that had a 6 year lease term. Then, IndiGo did something it had never done before – it started short term dry leasing older, previously operated airplanes, in a desperate attempt to increase capacity. The airline has leased 14 aircraft, most from Tigerair, and is soon expected to induct it’s 15th such airplane, making it the 99th active aircraft in the fleet. All the short term dry leased airplanes that were not part of the airline’s order are registered VT-IDx, with ‘x’ taking values from A to O.

IndiGo resorted to such leases because it felt the Indian market had the demand. More than 50% of the airline’s fleet today has been inducted  since 2012 – the year Kingfisher airlines went down. IndiGo filled in the void left by Kingfisher, was prepared for a void to be left by SpiceJet, and prepared to boost capacity to take on AirAsia India and Vistara. Today, the airline has a momentum that seems unstoppable. After exhausting its A320CEO order (100 airplanes, placed in 2005), the airline is left with 430 Airbus A320NEO airplanes that have been ordered and not yet delivered (an order for 180 airplanes in 2011 and 250 in 2015). The Airbus A320NEO is expected to soon be certified. IndiGo has opted for the Pratt and Whitney PW1100G geared turbofan engine option, and the NEO airplanes offer fuel savings of upto 15% more than A320CEOs without winglets/sharklets.

A320NEO order pie chartAs of October 31st, there are 2,868 disclosed orders for Airbus A320NEO airplanes from airline operators and leasing companies. Out of those 2,868 orders, IndiGo’s totals 430 aircraft – a staggering 15% of that number. This is followed next by the AirAsia, which has 304 NEOs on order.

Although Qatar Airways is the launch customer of the A320NEO, the first production NEO is destined for IndiGo. Out of the first 35 NEOs to be produced, 10 are IndiGo’s, followed next by 6 of Qatar Airways.

Both these point to one thing – that IndiGo is desperate for capacity.

A320NEOBut with the 1st, 2nd, 4th, 6th, 9th, 10th, 12th, 15th, 18th and 19th A320NEOs destined for IndiGo, why would the airline want to lease a 11 year old A320 as its 99th aircraft?

The A320NEO was expected to be certified this November, but there apparently few delays that has forced Airbus to state that Qatar, the launch customer, will receive its A320NEO by end of this year, without publicly stating a date. IndiGo is a good planner, and perhaps the induction of the 99th aircraft as an old airplane points to the airline having some knowledge about delays in the NEO program which may be unacceptable for a carrier that is ever looking to add capacity.

IndiGo will be adding capacity not just with airplanes, but with seats. While the airline has stated its intent to induct Airbus A321NEOs, orders for such airplanes do not yet officially reflect in Airbus’s order book. Another way the airline is adding seats to airplanes is through the Space Flex concept, where the two aft lavatories will be moved into the galley, freeing up enough space to accommodate an additional row of passengers, taking the total to 186 seats per A320 as opposed to the present 180 seats per A320. All A320s can be retrofitted to the new configuration.

Interestingly, IndiGo co-founder Rakesh Gangwal mentioned that that the larger A321NEO will have a longer range, when compared to the A320NEO. He told Livemint, ” We will soon have the (Airbus) A321, with 234 seats. That brings down costs dramatically and allows us to do different things. Also, the range of the A321 is bigger, so with the same product, we can fly on longer routes from India”. It was only in January this year that Airbus formally announced the A320NEOLR, a 97 tonne Airbus A321 with three auxiliary fuel tanks that offers a range of 4000 nautical miles (NM), which is 300 NM more what is advertised for the A320NEO. Airbus claims that the 97 tonne A321NEO has “the longest range of any single aisle airliner available today and tomorrow, making it ideally suited to transatlantic routes and will allow airlines to tap into new long haul markets which were not previously accessible with current single aisle aircraft.”

However, deliveries for the long range A321NEO are expected in second half of 2018, which means IndiGo will have to do with the A320NEO till then.

Aditya Ghosh told AIN that the airline will increase its operating fleet to 111, 134 and 154 aircraft, by the end of March 2016, 2017 and 2018, respectively.

This means that IndiGo will need to induct:

  1. 13 A320NEOs by end March 2016, or 4 – 5 airplanes a month assuming deliveries for IndiGo start in January 2016.
  2. 23 A320NEOs between March 2016-March 2017, or 2 airplanes a month in FY2016-17.
  3. 20 A320NEOs between March 2017-March 2018, or 1-2 airplanes a month in FY2017-18.

This will total to 56 A320NEOs, which will represent 36% of the airline’s fleet by end 2018, in line with what Aditya Ghosh told AIN in October: “We will, within two and a half years, have two-thirds of our fleet with Neos and in five to six years, have an all-Neo fleet”.

With such a plan, all the airplanes presently in IndiGo’s fleet will stay atleast till end March 2018, after which aircraft may be replaced by A320NEOs.

Assuming that IndiGo starts replacing the A320CEOs in its fleet with A320NEOs in its fleet from FY2018-19 to FY 2020-21 (to have an all NEO fleet in 5-6 years), that will involve replacements at an average rate of 2-3 airplanes a month. IndiGo has historically inducted on average 1 airplane a month, but in March 2012 it inducted 3 airplanes in a month. IndiGo will be able to handle 2-3 replacements a month, and perhaps 2 additions each month, taking the induction to a total to 4-5 airplanes a month, perhaps at maximum. At such a rate, the fleet at maximum may rise to around 220 airplanes in FY2021-22. A ball-park figure of 200, if achieved, will translate to IndiGo doubling its fleet in the next 5-6 years, amounting to a net CAGR of 12% – a very reasonable growth rate.

The initial hiccup, however, may still be with the A320NEO program. If IndiGo is to achieve its target of 111 airplanes by end March 2016, and if the NEO certification further pushes back timelines, the airline may have to induct more, previously-operated and old CEO aircraft, though that seems somewhat unlikely.

One of IndiGo’s A320NEOs, a Toulouse assembled frame, which is also the 6th NEO to be built (MSN6720), has been flying since 25th September 2015 to help with the certification program. The second A320NEO (MSN6744), which unlike the other initial NEOs for IndiGo has been assembled at Hamburg, and fully painted in the airline’s colors, but missing engines. It may be that the latter MSN (the Hamburg build) will be delivered first to IndiGo.

Thanks to Ameya for heads-up on the 99th aircraft.

FLYeasy’s Embraer E190s spotted at Jordan (Satellite Imagery)

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Jordan Ammam Queen Alia Airport AMM

Saudi Arabian airline Nas Air, which was later re-branded as Flynas, operated 6 110 seat Embraer E190LRs and 4 118 seat Embraer E195s, but ceased operations  of the regional jet a while ago, as the airline transitioned to an Airbus A320 fleet. Of the six E190s, all leased from GECAS, two aircraft, with manufacturer serial number (MSN) 217 and 233 were reportedly to be leased to Bengaluru based FLYeasy, which is yet to obtain its Air Operator Permit (AOP).

Google Earth satellite imagery dated 15th September 2015 of the Jordan Aircraft Maintenance Company (JorAMCO) facility (see the highlighted portion in the image above) at the Queen Alia International Aiport at Jordan’s capital Ammam shows two Embraer E190 aircraft painted in what definitely appears as Flyeasy’s livery. Earlier satellite imagery dated 17th June 2015 shows one E190 in Nasair colors, and one E190 in Flyeasy’s colors parked at the JorAMCO facility.

The Flyeasy livery is very evident in the images, with the dark green winglets, dark green engines, and the dark green paint that follows the vertical stabiliser down to the bottom of the fuselage.

Air Costa’s 112 seat E190 registered VT-LBR, leased from GECAS, today flew into JorAMCO for scheduled maintenance.

Below are zoomed in images of the aircraft, and below that the embedded map. Please click on the image to view in full resolution.
Flyeasy E190 at JorAMCO Jordan

Below is the map:

Air Costa cancels 8 additional flights for 11 days

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Air Costa E190

Air Costa, which used to operate 32 daily flights to 9 destinations, will be operating 18 flights to 8 destinations starting today, 16th November, till 26th November, as the airline’s fleet temporarily reduces to just 2 aircraft – one 67 seat Embraer E170 and one 112 seat Embraer E190. No sale of flights on one of the patterns (MAA-HYD-VTZ-BLR-VTZ-HYD-MAA-JAI-MAA) was noticed on the airline’s website. This leads to VTZ not being temporarily served by Air Costa.

VT-LSR, one of the two Embraer E170s, has been pulled out of operations due to the planned return of the aircraft to its lessor. VT-LBR, one of the two Embraer E190s, operated a special Chennai-Bengaluru flight LB709 (the first 7xx flight number for the airline), which is a ferry flight turned commercial flight, before heading off for scheduled maintenance to Jordan via Muscat. This leaves only two airplanes – VT-LNR (E170) and VT-LVR (E190) in the active fleet in the short term.

In contrast to Air Costa cancelling flights, AirAsia India, which presently has one of its Airbus A320 airplanes (VT-BLR) at Hyderabad for scheduled maintenance (Since 1st November), has not allowed operations to be impacted. The airline, which recently received its 6th aircraft (VT-APJ), continues to fly 5 patterns with 5 active aircraft. VT-BLR is expected to return from maintenance today to allow VT-APJ to fly to Delhi to operate additional frequencies on existing routes, from tomorrow. (Edit: VT-BLR flew to Delhi late this morning, and will take on Delhi flights from tomorrow).

Exactly one month ago, we had reported Air Costa not selling the E170 sectors for flights between 25th October and 30th November. The airline however later changed plans and started selling and operating 10 E170 flights. One operating E170 flies the VGA-BLR-CJB-HYD-VGA-HYD-TIR-HYD-CJB-BLR-VGA pattern, accumulating 10:15hrs block time.

The airline is expecting two additional Embraer E190s to soon join its fleet.

SpiceJet: Net Profits, Operational losses in Q2 FY2015-16

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Spice 737

SpiceJet posted its third straight quarter of net profits, with the announcement of its Q2 results. The airline posted a net profit of INR 23.77 crore, but realised an operational loss of INR 27.91 crore. This loss includes the depreciation and amortisation expense of INR 30.36 crore. The airline has immensely benefitted from lower unit fuel costs which have dropped by 35% to INR 1.17/seat-km, compared to the same quarter last year. Higher load factors at the airline have driven up unit revenues by 7% over the same quarter last year.

Below is a detailed comparison of unit revenues between Q2’16 and Q2’15:

 Q2'16 vs Q2'15 (Quarter over Quarter)

In Q2’15, the airline had an average sale (including ancillary revenue, which includes non-passenger revenue such as cargo) of INR 4,019 per passenger. In Q2’16, the airline had an average net sake of INR 3,750 per passenger. Although the airline was able to extract lesser per passenger, it flew more passengers, with the net effect being positive on the revenues.

Cargo performance has however been disappointing, with the airline flying on average 140kg lesser, per flight, in Q2’16 compared to Q2’15. This has resulted in a 7% drop in cargo carried per ASK. This however is partly explained by the shrinkage of the mainline jet fleet at SpiceJet.

Higher passengers, lower per-passenger sales, and lower cargo have resulted in a net 9% higher unit sales.

On the operating expense front, SpiceJet performed worse (on a unit basis) than the same quarter last year. The graph clearly shows that all unit costs have gone up, except for fuel, lease rentals, and aircraft redelivery expenses.

Average fuel prices in Q2’16 was 34% lower than in Q2’15. This has resulted in Spicejet’s unit fuelc osts falling by 35% (The 1% difference is due to the dissimilar fleet mix of Jets and Turboprops). Unit lease rentals have gone down due to a smaller fleet of mainline jets, and a higher utilisation of aircraft. In Q2’15, the airline re-delivered a large number of dry-leased Boeing 737s, which cost the airline much. In Q2’16, there were no re-deliveries of dry-leased aircraft, which has led to lower redelivery expenses.

All other unit costs are much higher, most notably due to the smaller scale of operations which has concentrated certain fixed costs. In Q2’16, the airline deployed 34% lesser capacity than in Q2’15. Yet, all these unit cost increases were offset by the drop in fuel prices.

In Q2’15, SpiceJet lost 69 paisa for every seat flown every kilometre. In Q2’16, SpiceJet lost 10 paisa for every seat flown every kilometre.

However, the unit EBITDA (Earnings before Interest, Taxes, Depreciation and Amortisation) in Q2’16 was INR 0.01/seat-km, which was an earning of INR 1 paisa for every seat flown every kilometre.

What pushed the quarter to profits?

“Other Income” of INR 72.7 crore, which included 65.4 crore “consequent to finalisation / revision of terms of settlement of earlier lease terminations with an aircraft lessor for three aircraft” tipped the airline into net profits.

Comparison to Q1’16

Q2’15 and Q2’16 are a year apart. In that one year gap, the airline went througha near-death experience and changed hands, making the usefulness of such a comparison limited. A comparison with Q1’16 allows for a better understanding of how things are shaping up at SpiceJet.

SpiceJet Load Factors vs Domestic industry

Average load factors in Q2’16 were higher than in Q1’16, despite Q1 historically being a season of peak travel demand, while Q2 is historically a lean season.

In Q2’16, compared to Q1’16, SpiceJet flew 5% more flights, carried 5% more passengers, yet carried 10% more cargo, resulting in 5% more cargo per flight. The airline carried on the same number of average passengers per flight : 121, in both quarters. However, the airline operated flight lengths that were 2% lower than in Q1.

Q2'16 vs Q1'16 (Consecutive Quarter)

Unit revenues were understandably lower in Q2 due to lower pricing power. Net sales per passenger dropped from INR 4,215 to INR 3,750, which resulted in a 8% drop in unit revenues.

On the cost front, fuel prices on average in Q2 had fallen by 9%, but resulted in just 8% unit fuel savings at SpiceJet due to the shorter flights. Lease rentals have perhaps gone up due to the wet leased A319 aircraft contributing to smaller capacity per flight, and the mainline fleet growing in size with no significant change in capacity. This is due to some aircraft going for scheduled maintenance in this period, which has also driven up maintenance costs. The US dollar being higher by 3% in Q2 over Q1 may have also added to the increased expense. However, airport charges have remained almost unchanged. Q2’s higher capacity of 2% brought down employee unit costs by 2%.

Other operating costs and other expenses going up by 27% and 9% respectively cannot be easily explained. Other operating costs were expected to remain the same, while other expenses were expected to fall by around 2%. The increase may be partly explained by increased selling costs (higher agent commissions – which may also explain the higher load factors), increased marketing spend, and training, among others. The airline has done something that has attracted higher expenses in Q2.

Scheduled Commuter Airlines (SCAs) – A turning point in Indian Regional Aviation?

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NCAP 2015 Regional Aviation India

Till date, regional airlines in India have been looked upon in poor light, largely because of the past and the present. No regional airline in India has survived long, collapsing under the pressures of mismanagement and poor planning. Even today, the way in which regional airlines are both managed and run is disappointing.

The ministry’s proposal for Scheduled Commuter Airlines (SCAs), and the associated benefits, are huge. For one, SCAs will be able to enter into code shares with other airlines. This will be the starting point for capacity purchase agreements (CPAs) as seen in the US of A where mainline airlines contract commuter or regional airlines to offer last airport connectivity. It turns into a win-win for both mainline and the regional or commuter airline.

Yet, the paid up capital requirement, as stipulated by the ministry, reduces entry barriers. This will allow the “not-so-good” to enter the business, mismanage the business, ultimately leading to a collapse, non-payment of salaries, and the like. So how much does an airline require to run?

It depends on many factors. We look into market lease rates of popular aircraft, and the amount of money the airline is going to lose over a period of 2 years. The projections are based on statistical data derived from many airlines, and will make you appreciate how much an airline really needs. We also expand the aircraft set to include other, smaller, in production turboprops.

We invite you to learn more by clicking here.