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Airbus A380 featuring the "more personal space" livery at the Dubai air show. Picture courtesy and copyright Airbus.

India finally permits Airbus A380 operations

The government of India has finally cleared the runways for the world’s largest passenger aircraft, the Airbus A380 superjumbo, to operate to India.

In a statement the civil aviation ministry says,

The Union Minister for Civil Aviation, Shri Ajit Singh has decided to remove restrictions on flights of Airbus A-380 to India. Now, flights of A-380 to India will be allowed to airports which are equipped to handle them. At present only 4 airports, i.e. Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore have the required infrastructure for operations of A-380. The decision has been taken after due consultations with the DGCA [Director General of Civil Aviation], Air India and Airports Authority of India.

Dr. Kiran Rao, the country head of manufacturer Airbus and EVP Strategy and Marketing, said

“Airbus welcomes the news that the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation has approved the operations of the Airbus A380 in India. “This is good news for Indian airports and the Indian flying public,”

Over 120 A380 aircraft have been delivered to ten operators globally, nine of whom have scheduled operations in India. The aircraft can seat 555 passengers in a classic three class configuration, but most operators are operating with lesser seats. For an airline-wise A380 cabin configuration and seating comparison read this infographic.

We will shortly analyse which airlines are likely to bring the behemoth aircraft to India at a later in this week. The likely candidates are British Airways, Emirates, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines.

As per the ministry three airlines have expressed interest in operating the A380 to India. The strongest interest had come from German flag carrier Lufthansa who was keen to commence the A380 on the Frankfurt Delhi route back in 2010. The airline had to instead bring in its brand new Boeing 747-8i when the A380 was resisted by the Indian government. A spokesperson for the airline said

“Lufthansa welcomes the decision of the Indian government to approve A380 operations on direct services to and from India. Lufthansa will thoroughly examine the opportunities but currently has no concrete plans for immediate flight operations of this aircraft type to and from India. Lufthansa already operates its Boeing flagship, the new B747-8 with its new First, Business and Economy class cabins in India and can offer its Indian customers its top products. India is one of Lufthansa’s most important intercontinental markets and the only large aviation market that had restricted the A380. Lufthansa currently already operates the A380 to the USA, China, Japan, Singapore and South Africa. India will be very high on our list for future A380 operations.”

The world’s largest A380 operator, Dubai-based Emirates airline said

“We welcome the decision of the Indian aviation authorities to allow A-380 operations. Any decision to deploy an A-380 on our network is dependent on passenger demand on that particular route, as well as the ability of airports to handle the aircraft,”

The launch operator of the A380, Singapore Airlines’ general manager for India, Mr. David Lau said

“The clearance to deploy A-380s on Indian routes is favourable news to the Indian aviation industry. Singapore Airlines will evaluate the commercial viability of this recent development based on available traffic rights and resources,”

A spokesperson for Delhi International Airport Limited, the operator of Indira Gandhi airport in New Delhi said

“Delhi International Airport (P) Limited welcomes the Ministry of Civil Aviation’s decision to permit A380 commercial operations, the world’s largest passenger aircraft, at India’s busiest airport, Indira Gandhi International Airport (IGIA). In the past year, IGIA has seen a growth of over 14% in international traffic, surpassing airports nationwide. With this order, the Indian passenger will now have the choice of commencing his journey from India, on this aviation marvel. IGIA is one of the few airports in India equipped to handle A380 flight operations backed by our state of the art infrastructure, both in the terms of passenger terminal facilities and aircraft operations airside facilities.”

We are awaiting comments from British Airways, Air France, Korean Air and Malaysia Airlines, the other major A380 operators who also operate to India. Similarly we are awaiting reactions from other airports.

Before we break out the bubbly in celebration, the ministry though has put some caveats in its approval. The first relates to bi-lateral air service agreements

The operations of A-380 aircraft would be subject to overall traffic entitlements within the bilateral Air Service Agreements (ASAs) with different countries. It has also been decided that wherever the entitlements are not expressed in terms of seats per week, the same should be rationalized and converted into seats per week before allowing A-380 operations to India from these countries. If any Air Service Agreement (ASA) specifically prohibits operation of A-380 to India, the same will also be required to be amended before A380 operations from that country are allowed. The rationalization of traffic rights from services per week to seats per week shall be done through mutual negotiations through Memorandum of Understanding.

The second relates to airports

Before operations of A-380 are allowed, all the airports shall have to get DGCA certification and make adequate preparation in terms of various services required.

But overall, a hat-tip to the minister for eliminating what we feel was a short-sighted decision.

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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