With its advanced features and improved fuel efficiency, the Airbus A330neo, a modernized version of the successful A330 aircraft, was supposed to revolutionize the long-haul industry. Despite initial excitement and great expectations, the A330neo has suffered considerable obstacles and failed to fulfil expectations.
Europe's response to the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was the Airbus A330neo. Instead of developing an entirely distinctive aircraft from the ground up, like Boeing did with the Dreamliner, Airbus chose to optimize the existing Airbus A330ceo or "current engine option" plane, which has been in service since the mid-1990s. At the Farnborough Airshow in 2014, Airbus introduced the revised A330neo or “new engine option”.
Overview of the Airbus A330neo
The Airbus A330neo is an upgraded variant of the A330 aircraft, incorporating new engines and aerodynamic improvements. It was designed to compete with Boeing's 787 Dreamliner and offer airlines a more cost-effective and fuel-efficient option for long-haul flights. The A330neo promised reduced operating costs, improved range, and enhanced passenger comfort, making it an attractive choice for airlines seeking to modernize their fleets. Its two variants are based on the A330-200 and 330-300: the 330-800 has a range of 8,150 nautical miles (15,090 kilometers; 9,380 miles) with 257 passengers, while the 330-900 has a range of 7,200 nautical miles (13,330 kilometers; 8,290 miles) with 287 passengers.
The 330-900 flew for the first time on October 19, 2017, and acquired its EASA type certificate on September 26, 2018. It was delivered to TAP Air Portugal on November 26, 2018, and entered service on December 15, 2018. The 330-800 flew for the first time on November 6, 2018, and gained EASA type certification on February 13, 2020; the first two 330-800s were delivered to Kuwait Airways on October 29, 2020, and entered service on November 20, 2020. As of May 2023, a total of 289 A330neo family aircraft had been ordered by more than 25 customers, of which 102 had been delivered.
Initial Expectations and Hopes
When the Airbus A330neo was first announced, there was considerable excitement and anticipation within the aviation industry. It was seen as a potential game-changer capable of challenging Boeing's dominance in the long-haul market. The aircraft boasted a significant increase in fuel efficiency, thanks to its new Rolls-Royce Trent 7000 engines and improved aerodynamics. Many industry experts believed that the A330neo would be a commercial success and gain substantial market share. The Trent is the exclusive powertrain, since Rolls-Royce offered better terms in exchange for exclusivity. Customers complain about the lack of competition among engine manufacturers. Air Lease Corporation CEO Steven Udvar-Hazy has stated that he wants a choice of engines, but Airbus has stated that equipping a commercial aircraft to handle more than one type of engine adds several hundred million dollars to the development cost. Pratt & Whitney's CEO stated, "Engines are no longer commodities...the optimization of the engine and the aircraft becomes more relevant."
Features and Benefits of the A330neo
Advanced Aerodynamics: Fuel Efficiency at Its Best
The A330neo incorporates advanced aerodynamic features, including optimized winglets and new engine nacelles. These enhancements reduce drag and improve fuel efficiency by up to 14% compared to previous models. The reduced fuel consumption not only benefits the environment but also helps airlines lower operational costs.
Extended Range: Connecting More Destinations
With the A330neo, Airbus has extended the aircraft's range, allowing airlines to serve more destinations. The improved fuel efficiency and increased maximum takeoff weight enable the A330neo to fly longer distances. This feature opens up new possibilities for airlines to expand their routes and connect passengers across the globe.
Cabin Comfort: Improving the Passenger Experience
Airbus prioritizes passenger comfort, and the A330neo succeeds on that front. The cabin has been rebuilt to include modern conveniences, bigger overhead storage bins, and more expansive seating combinations. Passengers will have a nice and relaxed ride thanks to the calm and tranquil cabin atmosphere, enhanced air quality, and mood lighting.
Lower Operating Costs: A Financial Benefit
Airlines want to reduce their operational expenses, and the A330neo helps them achieve that goal. Lower fuel expenditures result from the aircraft's better fuel economy, which may have a substantial influence on an airline's bottom line. Furthermore, the A330neo's shared architecture with the A330 family lowers training and maintenance expenses for airlines that currently operate prior versions.
Flexibility and Commonality: An Asset for Airlines
One of the key advantages of the A330neo is its flexibility and commonality with the A330 family. Airlines that already operate the A330 can seamlessly integrate the A330neo into their fleet, benefiting from a common type rating for pilots and shared spare parts inventory. This compatibility allows airlines to maximize operational efficiency and optimize their resources.
Challenges and Competitive Landscape
Despite the initial optimism surrounding the A330neo, it faced several challenges that hindered its success. One of the main obstacles was the strong competition posed by Boeing's 787 Dreamliner. Boeing had already gained a head start in the market, and its well-established reputation and customer relationships made it challenging for Airbus to secure new orders. Additionally, Boeing's 787 offered better fuel efficiency and advanced technological features, giving it a competitive edge over the A330neo.
One of the significant setbacks for the Airbus A330neo was the issue with its engines. Rolls-Royce, the engine manufacturer, faced delays in delivering the Trent 7000 engines, impacting the aircraft's production and delivery schedule. Furthermore, some airlines reported performance issues with the engines, including higher fuel consumption than initially anticipated. These problems undermined the A330neo's promised efficiency gains and cost savings, making it less attractive to potential customers.
Market Demand and Timing
The low market demand for new long-haul aircraft was another element that led to the A330neo's failure. Even before the COVID-19 outbreak, the aviation sector saw a slowdown in passenger traffic growth. Many airlines were concentrating their efforts on optimizing their existing fleets and investing in smaller, more fuel-efficient aircraft for shorter flights. The A330neo struggled to find buyers in this challenging market environment. The timing of the A330neo's debut also contributed to its downfall. The aircraft entered the market during a period of reduced demand for new planes. Due to economic uncertainty and the impact of the COVID-19 epidemic, airlines were hesitant to invest in new aircraft. This lack of demand, coupled with timing challenges, made it difficult for the A330neo to gain momentum. While Airbus anticipated a market of over 1,000 A330neos, one pessimistic projection revealed in 2018 predicted just 400 sales, owing to the fact that the A330neo was late to market and fuel prices had dropped significantly over the years, lowering demand. Although some A330 operators have dual sourced from Boeing and Airbus, 19% of A330 operators are already 787 clients.
Customer Preferences and Feedback
Customer feedback and preferences are crucial in determining the success of an aircraft. While the A330neo offered certain improvements, it failed to capture the attention and preference of many airlines. Some carriers expressed concerns over the limited differentiation between the A330neo and the existing A330, which made it less compelling for fleet expansion or replacement. Additionally, airlines often prioritize passenger experience and amenities, and the A330neo did not offer significant advancements in this regard. Despite Airbus's efforts to promote the A330neo, many airlines showed a lack of interest in adopting the aircraft. Airlines preferred other models, such as the Boeing 787 or the Airbus A350, which offered superior fuel efficiency, range, and passenger comfort. Moreover, the A330neo's high purchase price and limited operational benefits compared to its competitors deterred airlines from placing significant orders. The lack of customer interest and orders further contributed to the failure of the A330neo.
Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic
The COVID-19 epidemic had a severe effect on the entire aircraft sector, including the A330neo. Airlines were compelled to rethink their fleet strategy due to travel limitations, decreased passenger demand, and budgetary restraints. Many airlines shifted their attention to short-haul operations in order to save expenses wherever feasible. As a result, investments in future long-haul aircraft like the A330neo were downgraded or cancelled entirely, worsening the aircraft's failure.
In recent years, environmental sustainability has become a significant focus within the aviation industry. Aircraft manufacturers are expected to develop greener and more fuel-efficient planes to reduce carbon emissions. While the A330neo offers improved fuel efficiency compared to its predecessor, it still lags behind the Boeing 787 Dreamliner in terms of environmental performance. This aspect has affected the A330neo's market appeal as airlines seek to align with sustainability goals.
In conclusion, the failure of the Airbus A330neo can be attributed to an assortment of root causes. The A330neo's success has been hampered by fierce competition from Boeing's 787 Dreamliner, delays and production issues, high operating costs, a lack of significant innovations, insufficient market demand, customer preferences, reliance on the previous A330 model, limited range capability, maintenance and training challenges, and environmental concerns. Manufacturers must adapt and overcome these problems as the aviation industry evolves in order to develop viable and market-leading aircraft types.
The aviation industry plays a crucial role in connecting people and fostering economic growth. As Bulgaria's national carrier, Bulgaria Air has consistently strived to provide exceptional services to its passengers. With the recent acquisition of its first A220 aircraft, the airline is set to embark on a new era of enhanced connectivity and travel experience.
The Arrival of Bulgaria Air's First A220
Bulgaria Air's first A220 aircraft marks a significant milestone in the airline's history. The delivery took place at the Airbus facility in Mirabel, Canada, where the aircraft was meticulously prepared for its debut in Bulgaria. This momentous occasion signifies the airline's commitment to modernizing its fleet and offering passengers a superior level of comfort and efficiency.
A Remarkable Addition to the Fleet
The A220 is a cutting-edge aircraft manufactured by Airbus. It boasts several innovative features and advanced technologies that make it a game-changer in the aviation industry. With its sleek design, spacious cabin, and state-of-the-art systems, the A220 promises an unparalleled flying experience for both business and leisure travelers. The A220 is the most recent generation of Airbus aircraft to enter Bulgaria Air's fleet. The airline already flies seven A320 aircraft, proving the A220 and A320 Family's fleet complementarity. With a range of up to 3,450 nautical miles (6,390 km), the A220 gives carriers like Bulgaria Air more operating flexibility. Bulgaria Air's first A220 configuration will include 143 dual-class seats, including eight Business class seats. The A220 is the first aircraft designed specifically for the 100-150 seat market, with cutting-edge aerodynamics, innovative materials, and Pratt & Whitney's latest-generation engines. The aircraft provides unrivalled comfort in a compact single-aisle configuration, with the largest windows, largest seats, and overhead storage, as well as the widest and quietest cabin in its class.
Features and Advantages of the A220
The A220 offers numerous features and advantages that set it apart from other aircraft in its class. Here are some notable highlights:
Fuel Efficiency and Environmental Consciousness
The A220 incorporates the latest advancements in aerodynamics and engine technology, resulting in exceptional fuel efficiency. This not only reduces operating costs for airlines but also minimizes their environmental impact by decreasing carbon emissions.
The A220 contributes to Bulgaria Air's commitment to aviation decarbonization by delivering up to 25% lower fuel burn and CO2 emissions per seat than previous generation aircraft, as well as 50% lower NOx emissions than industry requirements. Furthermore, the aircraft's noise footprint is reduced by half when compared to previous-generation aircraft.
Spacious and Comfortable Cabin
Passenger comfort is a top priority for Bulgaria Air. The A220's cabin design provides generous legroom, wider seats, and large overhead bins, ensuring a pleasant journey for passengers. The aircraft's noise-reducing technology also contributes to a quieter and more relaxing in-flight experience.
Equipped with advanced avionics systems, the A220 offers enhanced safety, navigation, and communication capabilities. Pilots benefit from a comprehensive flight deck that includes intuitive displays and controls, facilitating smooth operations and precise flight management.
Regional Connectivity Improvements & Expanding International Presence
With the addition of the A220 to its fleet, Bulgaria Air aims to strengthen its regional connectivity within Europe. The aircraft's optimal size and range make it ideal for operating on shorter routes, connecting cities and regions efficiently. Passengers can look forward to more frequent flights and improved travel options within the continent. Beyond regional operations, the A220 enables Bulgaria Air to expand its international reach. By leveraging the aircraft's range capabilities, the airline can venture into new markets and connect with destinations outside of Europe. This presents exciting opportunities for both business and leisure travelers, who can explore a broader range of destinations with Bulgaria Air.
Air Lease Corporation Collaboration
Bulgaria Air's successful procurement of the A220 is made possible by a partnership with Air Lease Corporation (ALC). ALC, a major aircraft leasing firm, offers airlines throughout the world flexible and customized lease solutions. This collaboration not only provides Bulgaria Air with access to the most recent aircraft types, but it also helps the airline's expansion ambitions and strategic objectives.
The Future of Bulgaria Air
With the introduction of the A220 and ongoing fleet modernization efforts, Bulgaria Air is well-positioned for a bright future. The airline's dedication to providing superior service, along with the capabilities of the A220, guarantees that customers have a fantastic travel experience. As Bulgaria Air expands its route network and strengthens its position as a premier carrier, travelers can expect even more convenience and comfort on their journeys.
The arrival of Bulgaria Air's first A220 aircraft represents a significant milestone for the airline and the Bulgarian aviation industry. This state-of-the-art aircraft brings numerous benefits, including enhanced fuel efficiency, spacious cabin design, and advanced avionics. With expanded regional connectivity and increased international reach, Bulgaria Air is poised to provide exceptional travel experiences to passengers across Europe and beyond.
With Inputs from Airbus
The National Company Law Tribunal on Friday, June 16 adjourned the insolvency pleas filed by aircraft lessor Wilmington SP Trust Services against SpiceJet and listed it for July 17. The senior counsel appearing for SpiceJet argued that Aircastle (Ireland) and Wilmington SP Trust Services were the same entity and so this was the third petition filed by Aircastle (Ireland).
Aircastle (Ireland) has filed two separate petitions to initiate a corporate insolvency resolution process against the airline. The invoices raised by Wilmington for aircraft leases were in the name of Aircastle (Ireland), the lawyer claimed. The counsel appearing for Wilmington argued that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had registered Wilmington as a separate entity from Aircastle (Ireland), and the two cannot be treated as the same.
The tribunal had raised questions about the maintainability of the second insolvency plea filed by Aircastle on June 13. It asked the petitioner to satisfy the court if two petitions by the same operational creditor against the same corporate debtor could be filed. The two petitions filed by Aircastle (Ireland) and the one by Wilmington SP Trust are now listed for July 17.
Besides these two aircraft lessors, engine leasing company Willis Lease Finance Corp has also filed an insolvency plea against SpiceJet, which is listed for July 4.
SpiceJet’s Trouble with Other Lessors
SpiceJet is facing fresh trouble as two aircraft leasing companies, GASL Ireland and VS MSN, have secured a summary judgment worth USD 15 million against the airline in the London High Court. This judgment adds to the list of legal challenges for SpiceJet, as it has been revealed that at least three more cases have been filed against the airline in the commercial courts in London.
During the court proceedings, it was noted that SpiceJet made several attempts to delay the court's timetable. In one instance, the airline's legal team withdrew from the case, citing non-payment of fees. Subsequently, SpiceJet requested additional time, stating that they were in the process of hiring a new legal team. However, the court was unimpressed with these excuses and insisted that the proceedings must continue. As a result, a summary judgment was entered against the airline.
GASL Ireland and VS MSN are expected to seek enforcement of the UK court's judgment through the National Company Law Tribunal (NCLT) in India. Wilmington Services, another party that had obtained a summary judgment against SpiceJet in London, has already approached the NCLT in India.
What Happened With GASL Ireland and VS MSN?
In April 2018, SpiceJet agreed with VS MSN to lease a Boeing 737-700 for 96 months. In the backdrop of Covid-19, there were payment defaults and in November 2020, the parties entered into a rent deferral agreement. A total of USD 1,657,376 was waived under the agreement and further arrangements were agreed which laid down payments in monthly instalments during 2021. But continued non-payment by SpiceJet leftover USD 4 million outstanding by September 2022. Accordingly, VSN approached the high court in London seeking payment of the outstanding dues. In the beginning, SpiceJet failed to even acknowledge service.
On the other hand, SpiceJet did not submit any report from its expert who inspected the aircraft in Lithuania. This was pointed out by GASL’s barrister Philip Shepherd, KC, who argued that SpiceJet did not submit their expert’s report because it would not have supported the airline’s case that the aircraft met Redelivery Conditions. The court accepted Bull’s evidence in full and entered judgment against SpiceJet in the amount of USD 8,490,312.39. With the mounting litigation both in the United Kingdom and India, it remains to be seen what arguments SpiceJet will present to defend itself in these legal battles.
Adani Group-owned Mumbai Airport has recorded a 23% year-on-year growth in passenger footfall to 43,43,806 passengers in May, signalling a strong rebound in air travel. The airport handled a total of 35 lakh passengers in May last year.
Backed by its strong connectivity and infrastructure, the airport observed a surge in domestic and international passenger numbers during the period, the private airport operator said. It also said that the airport has recovered more than 100% in domestic and international sectors compared to the pre-Covid level.
While passenger traffic registered a full recovery to cross pre-Covid level, air traffic is yet to catch up. Mumbai Airport handled a total of 26,054 flights this May, much lower than the 28,188 flights it handled in May 2018, shows Airports Authority of India data. This May then, though the total flights operated were fewer when compared to May 2018, the passenger volumes were higher, reflecting the rising demand for air travel to/from Mumbai. When it comes to passenger traffic, the highest pre-Covid numbers were registered in 2018.
In May 2019, the airport handled only 38 lakh passengers as Jet Airways - based out of Mumbai- suspended operations in April of that year, hitting passenger and air traffic volumes. This May, the airport set a new record in passenger traffic for the first time since Jet Airways closed in 2019 and the Covid pandemic in 2020. On May 27, Mumbai Airport recorded the highest daily traffic with more than 1.5 lakh passengers, said a Mumbai International Airport Ltd (MIAL) spokesperson.
Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport (CSMIA) handled a total of 43,43,806 passengers, with 2,109,607 arrivals and 2,234,199 departures in May 2023, it said. Comparing May 2023 to April 2023 (40,14,823 passengers), the Mumbai Airport has experienced an 8% increase in passenger numbers, showcasing the airport's consistent growth. CSMIA said there was also a surge in Air Traffic Movements (ATMs), with the facility handling 26,054 ATMs in the previous month alone.
On May 27, CSMIA witnessed substantial passenger movement numbers with a total of 1,51,356 passengers, including 76,037 arrivals and 75,319 departures. Among domestic destinations, Delhi contributed the highest volume at 2,77,911 arrivals and 2,76,192 departures, followed by Bengaluru and Chennai, it stated. It noted that on the international routes, Dubai saw a staggering influx of 1,00,581 arrivals and 1,13,859 departures followed by Abu Dhabi and Singapore.
CSMIA’s Expansion plans
CSMIA cross runways’ average hourly flight movement capacity is proposed to be increased in the next two years from the current 46 to over 50 by creating a parallel taxiway and increased automation for speedier movement of aircraft between the airstrip and terminal.
“Airlines are now getting planes with higher seating capacity so passenger footfall has increased. Terminal capacity at the security hold area will be increased within the next few months to handle that,” said a senior official. But clearly, Adani’s biggest opportunity to put its stamp on CSMIA — like the peacock-themed T2 built by GVK Group — is at T1.
Senior group officials say several options for this terminal are being examined and a decision will be taken in the next few months. Three years back (before Adani had acquired Mumbai International Airport Ltd or MIAL), the GVK-controlled airport management had proposed reconstructing T1B for INR 1,200 crore in a three-phase plan submitted to the Airports Economic Regulatory Authority (AERA) back then.
“The justification submitted by MIAL for the construction of Terminal 1B was as follows: ‘The building was built long back, has become structurally weak… a structural audit report also evidences this. The level of service offered is very low as compared to T2, to bring it at par with T2. The plan is to consolidate the entire security hold area (SHA) area to smoothen operations…’,” AERA had said in its consultation paper for determining aeronautical services tariffs of CSMIA for April 2019-March 2024 (third control period). Incidentally, Delhi Airport had demolished its oldest terminal — T1B — some years ago.
In 2020 when this plan was submitted, CSMIA’s T1A was not in operation. “So in effect, Terminal 1C and 1A will be in operation when reconstruction of T1B is being done.… Refurbishing of T1A will also be required as the baggage handling system, inline screening systems need to be upgraded…. Upgraded Terminal I will be a two-level terminal with segregation between departures and arrivals. There will also be a flyover to the departure level,” the AERA paper had said.
CSMIA has two terminals T1 and T2. T1 comprises T1A, B and C buildings which were built over the last 50 years with 1B being constructed in 1965; 1A in 1992 and 1C in 2010. T1B’s structural audit was conducted in August 2017 and its report said, “…In the period of (T1B’s) existence, the structures have developed various defects.” The GVK-operated MIAL had planned to reconstruct T1B in three phases. Now Adani Group’s plans for this terminal will be known in the next few months.
Air India Working Upgrading Crew Rostering & Customer Notification Systems
Due to more than half of its flights being delayed this week, mostly as a result of an outdated personnel rostering system, Air India has come under fire from its passengers. The airline has not been able to handle the interruption brought on by Cyclone "Biparjoy" on India's western coast due to the current system. The carrier's problems were additionally made worse by the abrupt grounding of two aircraft.
On Friday, June 16, the carrier’s managing director Campbell Wilson said that the airline is investing in "leading-edge software" to ensure that similar disruptions don't occur again and that flight crew can be quickly reassigned and passengers can be immediately rebooked. By the beginning of 2024, this software will be fully operational.
According to a report by Business Standard, Air India is also upgrading its customer notification systems and processes to make them "less manual, more accurate and to utilise new channels such as WhatsApp", Wilson told employees through a message.
Air India Struggling with OTP
As cyclone "Biparjoy" went through the Arabian Sea near Mumbai on June 11, the operations at the city's airport went haywire. The report quoted three Air India executives on this matter and found out that while other airlines could commence their operations from June 12, Air India found it difficult to do so, majorly due to issues in the crew rostering system, said the first airline executive mentioned.
Air India’s daily on-time performance (OTP) was 32.3%, 24.5%, 41.7%, 36% and 65.4%, respectively, between June 11-15, as per the Ministry of Civil Aviation's data. Meanwhile, the OTPs of significant carriers like IndiGo and Vistara -- which too have substantial flights to and from the Mumbai airport like Air India -- had reached above 90% by June 15, as per the data.
About 37% of the total flights of the Tata Group-run carrier go through the Mumbai airport. About 44% of Vistara flights, also run by the Tata Group, go via the Mumbai airport. For IndiGo, Mumbai's share stands at about 18%, according to aviation analytics firm Cirium. The first executive said, "Cabin crew members have been sent from Delhi to Mumbai to normalise operations but it then led to certain shortages in Delhi."
Several Delayed Flights
Among the several Air India flights delayed in the past few days were a Mumbai-Bengaluru flight -- which was late by 18 hours -- while one to Doha left 20 hours behind schedule. "Air India's managers scrambled to find alternate cabin crew to operate already-delayed flights as those originally assigned had exceeded their stipulated duty hours that day. In some cases, arranging separate crew members took a few hours and then pilots’ duty time limit issues began creeping in. Some flights departed just in the nick of time without a need for replacement but some were delayed," the second airline executive stated.
Passengers were agitated and Central Industrial Security Force personnel had to be called in to control the situation. "There were many passengers who missed connecting flights because of the delays and we had to find seats for them too on the next available flights," the third executive explained.
Air India, which has recently launched new domestic flights from Delhi and Mumbai, has been operating around 58 A320 aircraft over the past few months. Earlier this week, two A320 planes developed technical snags which impacted schedules.
Wilson, in his message, said: "While the weather is not under our control, and prevention of disruption is clearly the preference, there are things we can and are doing to improve our ability to handle such events. Reducing the impact on customers is the key priority. Reducing the effect of disruption to crew members is another one. In that respect, we are upgrading our customer notification systems and processes to make them less manual, and more accurate and to utilise new channels such as WhatsApp.We are also investing in leading-edge software to rebook passengers, and to recover aircraft and crew rotations and positioning so that we get back to normal operations as fast as possible. There are three significant ‘disruption management’ system implementations concurrently in progress to address the customer, crew and aircraft dimension of disruption, all slated to become operational early in 2024.”
In a tweet on Sunday, the airline blamed inclement weather conditions and the temporary closure of Runway 09/27 at the Mumbai airport for the problem. "In addition to other consequential factors beyond our control have resulted in delays and cancellation of some of our flights," the airline said in its tweet.
A new look and New roster system
Tata-group's Air India is likely to unveil new interiors and announce further compensation for its cabin crew. Air India will announce new compensation packages for its cabin crew and pilots and a new rostering system. The airline will soon have a new colour scheme, new designs for cabin interiors, and new uniforms for crew members, CEO Campbell Wilson informed employees in an internal communication. Campbell also said that the iconic Air India Maharajah may also include a "she" along with the original mascot.
The airline is aggressively expanding its employee count. It has already announced that it plans to hire over 4,000 cabin crew and 900 pilots this year. In a major revamp, the airline has rolled out over 29 new policies for employees in the last six months as part of the initiatives under its five-year transformation plan.
Earlier last year in December, Air India announced a USD 400-million plan to refurbish its entire wide-body fleet comprising 27 Boeing B787-8 and 13 B777 aircraft. Simultaneously, it also announced the refurbishing of its narrow-body fleet of 65 aircraft with new and more comfortable seats as the airline tries to appeal to global flyers and be in the league of global majors like Emirates and Singapore Airlines. The first refurbished aircraft is expected to enter service in mid-2024.
The airline has faced frequent criticisms from flyers regarding broken seats, non-functional in-flight entertainment screens and lavatories. The airline has engaged JPA Design and Trendworks - London-based product design companies, to assist with the cabin interior design elements of this refurbishment programme. In his maiden address to employees of the airline in February, Tata Sons chairman Chandrasekaran had identified four core areas on which Air India will focus- providing best-in-class customer service, making it the most technologically advanced airline in the world, upgrading and modernising the fleet, and hospitality - both in-flight and off-flight.
(With Inputs from Business Standard)
Amid protests of a surge in airfares across India, IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers said that such fluctuations exist and will continue to remain so. In a report by The Economic Times, Mr. Elbers was quoted saying that the sudden disruption in terms of capacity deployed by the suspension of flying by Go First has created temporary disruptions in capacity and consequently in pricing. “Things are more stable now and prices are also stabilising to that level,” he added.
Airfares surged last month as growing demand for travel was met with a cutback in supply. Half of the cash-strapped Go First’s aircraft have been grounded due to supply chain disruptions about Pratt & Whitney (P&W) jet engines. The grounding of GoFirst aircraft has created a vacuum in India’s aviation market and has opened its airport slots for rival airlines.
After its grounding on May 3, the government allotted GoFirst’s slots to other airlines as an interim measure. Before the shutdown, GoFirst had a market share of around 7% and had around 53 slots in Delhi and Mumbai airports.
Airfare Reduced by 60%
Airfares have dropped on several routes after Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia asked airlines to rein them, and as a result of this intervention, domestic airfares have declined by up to 60%.
"As a result of this intervention, prices have seen up to 60% decline. This is being monitored daily by the Minister himself," as per ministry sources on data by DGCA's Tariff Monitoring Unit. The official source further stated, "Airfares internationally have remained firm on account of various factors like the opening of markets after the pandemic and the resultant surge in demand, rise in ATF prices globally, supply chain disruptions on account of both Covid and Ukraine-Russia conflict... The rise in airfares has been mostly seen on select routes that were earlier being serviced by GoFirst.
Earlier on June 7, Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said that airfares on certain routes from Delhi have been considerably reduced by 14 to 61% following the airlines' advisory group meeting. Scindia explained that airlines have the authority to determine airfares and various factors are considered, including market dynamics and season. The aviation industry employs an algorithm for pricing decisions.
International Expansion in Cards
IndiGo today flies to 78 domestic destinations. It is now focussing on expanding its international footprint in line with the growth of the Indian economy. IndiGo currently flies to 26 international destinations with 75 international city pairs. It plans to increase its international seat share from 23% in FY23 to 30% in the next two years. The airline intends to add around 46 to 50 aircraft by FY24.
“We will continue to increase internationalisation. While we may tweak our network a bit to fill up the vacuum in the domestic market, the plan to internationalise stays,” Elbers said earlier. In August, IndiGo will offer its services on the Mumbai and Nairobi routes.
IndiGo has also said at that time that once these routes are operational, the airline will be connecting a total of 32 international destinations compared to 26 currently. IndiGo had said it will add 174 weekly international flights between June and September, including new destinations, routes, and frequencies. The airline has also been expanding its international footprint via codeshare agreements. Last week, IndiGo said it will launch new codeshare connections via Istanbul to the US cities of New York, Boston, Chicago, and Washington, from June 15.
At present, IndiGo operates a daily two-way service on the Delhi-Istanbul and Mumbai-Istanbul routes. It has deployed one wide-body- Boeing 777 aircraft each on these routes. Through its codeshare arrangement with Turkish Airlines, IndiGo has been adding connections to European destinations over the last few months. These codeshare connections provide access to countries including Bulgaria, Spain, the Netherlands, Greece, Belgium, and Hungary amongst others.
Possible New Aircraft Order
Airbus is closing towards a potentially record deal to sell 500 narrow-body A320-family jets to India's largest carrier IndiGo, Reuters reported recently citing sources. The European planemaker has emerged as the front-runner for an order eclipsing Air India's historic provisional purchase of 470 jets in February, the sources said on the sidelines of an airline industry meeting in Istanbul. IndiGo, the country's largest airline with a domestic market share of more than 57%, has a fleet of over 300 planes and operates more than 1,800 daily flights.
Such a deal would be worth some USD 50 billion at the most recently published Airbus list prices, but would typically be worth less than half this after widespread airline industry discounts for bulk deals, according to aircraft analysts. They said that Airbus and Boeing are also competing in separate talks to sell 25 A330neo or Boeing 787 wide-body jets to the same airline.
Airbus and Boeing have been racking up billions of dollars of new orders stretching beyond 2030 as airlines lock in supplies well ahead amid looming shortages. Indian carriers now have the second-largest order book, with over 6% share of the industry backlog, behind only the United States, according to a June 1 report by Barclays.
The bullish outlook by IndiGo comes as the world's third-largest aviation market is seeing a strong rebound in travel post-Covid, with domestic and international passenger numbers surging despite high fares. IndiGo aims to double its capacity by the end of the decade and expand its network, especially in international markets.