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Lufthansa may be first airline to commence Airbus A380 operation to India

New Delhi is an ideal candidate for Airbus A380 superjumbo operations as per Karl Ulrich Garnadt, member of the Lufthansa Board.

The airside infrastructure with runway 29-11 at Delhi’s Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA) is A380 capable and the new terminal 3 expected to be ready by late summer 2010, in time for the upcoming 2010 Commonwealth games, will be able to handle the gigantic aircraft.

The German carrier may be the first carrier to commence Airbus A380 operations to India as early as the Winter 2010 schedule.

However there are three challenges the A380 to Delhi flight must cross.

Firstly, Lufthansa was expecting to get four A380’s during 2010.

D-AIMA – MSN038 – May 31
D-AIMB – MSN041 – June 30
D-AIMC – MSN044 – July 31
D-AIMD – MSN048 – September 30

It appears that the problems at Airbus S.A.S. have further delayed the delivery schedule by at least another month if not longer. It is likely that Lufthansa will receive only three A380s during 2010 with the first expected only in the June/July time frame.

Lufthansa targets at least 15~16 hours of flying time from its long distance aircraft. Delhi will fit the utilisation requirement but will Lufthansa have enough A380s in its fleet.

The number of A380s brings us to the second hurdle. Passenger volumes and specifically premium passenger volumes.

North America is Lufthansa’s biggest market by far and will surely receive the first A380 service of the German carrier.

Based on preparations I have observed at the new C concourse of Frankfurt airport, it appears Lufthansa will dedicate its entire A380 upper deck to premium first and business class cabins.

While India is the second largest market by passenger numbers, India is weak when it comes to revenue per passenger seat kilometre (RPSK), since most India passengers look for low fares and do not deliver the levels of premium passengers North America or a Japan service would. This lowers the priority of Delhi in queue for an A380 service.

The A380 is essentially targeted at congested airports where slots allocation is a problem and passenger demand is high. New York and Tokyo fit the profile and may receive the first two A380 services of Lufthansa.

The third hurdle which does appear too significant — Will the Indian government give permission to Lufthansa to operate the A380 to India? The existing bi-lateral agreement does not include the A380. However, the German government has initiated a discussions on a review and renewal of the agreement. With the close ties between Lufthansa and state owned Air India, we can expect the renewal to be fairly smooth.

Lufthansa is focussed on the India market, and is celebrating its 50th anniversary of operations to India. It is quite Lufthansa may bite the bullet on the revenue and premium passenger front and claim the prize of being the first carrier to operate the superjumbo to India …. and a prize indeed it will be.

Now if the folks at Airbus can work a little faster and get the four planes to Lufthansa as promised.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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