The first Airbus A-380 planes would start flying in and out of India from May 30 with the Singapore Airlines (SIA) on Wednesday becoming the first carrier to introduce daily superjumbo flights from Delhi and Mumbai.
The move comes barely four months after the government allowed operation of the world’s largest aircraft late January at Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad airports which are capable of handling arrival and departure of large number of passengers in one go.
The SIA A-380s can fly 471 passengers in a three-class configuration of first class suites, business class and economy.
The superjumbos would operate daily to Mumbai and Delhi from May 30, taking over from two daily flights that currently serve each city using smaller Boeing 777s, SIA’s General Manager (India) David Lau told reporters.
He said another daily flight would continue to be operated with B-777s and in total, 14 flights would serve these cities per week.
“We have been keen to operate the Airbus A-380 to India and are glad that the Air Services Agreement (ASA) between Singapore and India now allows us to do so,” he said. The prevailing bilateral ASA allows SIA to fly 6,000 seats per week from Delhi and Mumbai.
He said India was a particularly important market for SIA and “we are very pleased that more of our customers will soon be able to experience the spaciousness and comfort of the world’s largest aircraft.”
The Singaporean national carrier was the first airline in the world to operate the A-380 in October 2007 between Singapore and Sydney. The superjumbo now also serves Frankfurt, Hong Kong, London, Los Angeles, Melbourne, New York, Paris, Shanghai, Tokyo Narita and Zurich.
With the introduction of the A-380s, the SIA official said the Indian operations would be carried out by diverting these superjumbos from Australia. These planes on the India route would be replaced by new ones as soon as more of them are inducted.
SIA expected 13 per cent rise in passenger numbers from Delhi. Of the 6,000 seats allowed per week, the airline estimated to use about 5,800 from Delhi and Mumbai, he said.
From July, while the A-380s would continue to operate, Boeing 777s would be replaced by A-330s which would allow the airline to increase capacity by over 15 per cent, Lau said.
The aircraft would be “a solid value proposition for the (Indian) customers”, a large chunk of whom were youth and willing to travel, he said, adding, “It is the shortest time that SIA has taken to launch these services from India.”
On the overall performance of the airline, Lau said despite strong currency fluctuations, SIA had registered “a strong single-digit growth in India”.
Asked about Air India which is slated to join the global grouping Star Alliance in July of which SIA is a major member, he said, “We have been partnering with Air India for over four years” and this cooperation would continue to grow in future.
To questions, Lau said “the only constraint we see is in ground handling” with the turnaround time likely to be greater in Mumbai than in Delhi. SIA has a fleet of 19 A-380s and five more on confirmed orders.
Lifting a five-year-old ban, the government had cleared the decks for A-380 operations from Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore in January.
The restriction on their operations was lifted after demands by major foreign carriers, including SIA and Emirates.
It was imposed in 2008 as the government then felt these double-decker, wide-body and long-haul jets would take away a large chunk of global traffic to the detriment of the Indian carriers’ interests.
Both Delhi and Mumbai airports have received DGCA certification and are making preparations to receive the superjumbos in terms of various services required to handle the large number of passengers these planes can accommodate.