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Emirates continues A380 operations at Mumbai. What are Lufthansa’s options? – Bangalore Aviation
Emirates_A380-800 A6-EDF arrives at London. Photo copyright Devesh Agarwal.
Emirates_A380-800 A6-EDF arrives at London. Photo copyright Devesh Agarwal.

Emirates continues A380 operations at Mumbai. What are Lufthansa’s options?

Dubai-based Emirates will continue operating its A380s in the prized early morning slot at Mumbai.

[bsu_pullquote align=”right”]”Emirates can confirm that it is has received an approval from Mumbai International Airport Private Limited to continue operating its A380 service between Dubai and Mumbai for the winter 2014 timetable.[/bsu_pullquote]A spokesperson for the airline said:
“Emirates can confirm that it is has received an approval from Mumbai International Airport Private Limited to continue operating its A380 service between Dubai and Mumbai for the winter 2014 timetable. The A380 service will continue to operate as flight numbers EK500 and EK501.”

This announcement once again highlights the shortage of Code-F gates at Mumbai’s Chhatrapati Shivaji airport and puts in to doubt the proposed A380 service by German carrier Deutsche Lufthansa AG between Frankfurt and Mumbai.

READ ONLINE: Lufthansa to commence A380 operations to both Mumbai and New Delhi this winter?

The airport has only one Code-F gate at present. The Emirates flight, EK500, arrives in to Mumbai at 02:15 and departs at 04:15. The Lufthansa flight, LH756, is scheduled to arrive at 01:10 and depart at 03:05. Till the additional Code-F gates are built in about 15 months time, the airport can accommodate only one of the two airlines’ super-jumbos at a time.

Options for Lufthansa

There is little doubt that Lufthansa needs to upgrade the Boeing 747-400 (B744) it operates on the daily Mumbai Frankfurt flight. Lufthansa’s ageing 747-400 lacks even the most basic requirement of the modern premium class; a flat bed seat. The hard cabin product of competitors, even from group members like Swiss, are way ahead, and this is costing the Germans in market share. Unfortunately, both of Lufthansa’s large aircraft, the Boeing 747-8i and the Airbus A380, are Code-F class aircraft.

So what are the options for the Germans? We asked Lufthansa about its plans in light of the developments with Emirates. The airline responded [bsu_quote cite=”Lufthansa spokesperson”]Lufthansa already operates A330, A340 and B747 on its routes from Mumbai, Delhi, Chennai, Pune and Bangalore to Europe. We are pleased to say that in view of the growing demand we plan to introduce the A380 in Mumbai and Delhi subject to government approval. We have applied for permission and are hopeful of getting government approvals soon.[/bsu_quote]It appears Lufthansa has not yet received permission from the civil aviation ministry to operate the A380 to India.

Lufthansa Boeing 747-8i D-ABYI "Fanhansa" Livery
Lufthansa Boeing 747-8i D-ABYI “Fanhansa” Livery.

The best option, in our opinion, is for Lufthansa to operate the Boeing 747-8i at Mumbai. The existing bi-lateral air services agreement with Germany permits all variants of the Boeing 747. Inside, the aircraft is fitted with the new business class and now with the newly introduced premium economy class, which the airline’s A380s will be fitted with last. Externally, though its wingspan designates it Code-F, the Boeing 747-8i can be parked on a Code-E stand, which Mumbai has more of, with some adjustments in the neighbouring bay. However, the availability of this aircraft may be an issue due its strong performance in high yield markets.

READ ONLINE: Photos and videos: Lufthansa’s new premium economy class
READ ONLINE: Review: Lufthansa’s new Business Class

If Lufthansa insists on going with the A380, one option would be for it to advance the schedule flight by 50 minutes, the amount of overlap with Emirates. Unfortunately, the Singapore Airline’s A380 flight departs at 00:25 and there would be a schedule conflict. Additionally, there needs to be some breathing room between flights. A hard option for Lufthansa would be to negotiate with both the airport operator MIAL and Emirates, and find a middle ground, may be getting Emirates to shift its schedule by 15 minutes? But then, why should Emirates give any quarter to a bitter competitor?

MIAL breaks tradition, allocates gate to Emirates

The announcement by Emirates, the largest foreign airline at Mumbai, underscores the influence it enjoys with the airport’s operator, MIAL. Despite announcing its schedule first, in early May, Lufthansa was forced to abandon its plans to operate its Boeing 747-8i to Mumbai just one week before the service was to commence in July. At that time too, the slot was given to Emirates even though it had announced its A380 flight almost three weeks after Lufthansa. Questions are being raised why MIAL broke with the tradition of “first come first served” to allocate the solitary gate to Emirates? We have been unable to reach MIAL for a comment.

READ ONLINE: Lufthansa upgrades Mumbai to Boeing 747-8i expect A380 to Delhi this winter
READ ONLINE: Emirates introduces A380 to Mumbai, ups capacity to New Delhi and Hyderabad
READ ONLINE: Lufthansa withdraws planned Boeing 747-8i to Mumbai, to introduce A380

What are your thoughts on this whole development? Does Lufthansa need to upgrade its product ex Mumbai? What are its options? Is MIAL behaving in a fair manner? Share your thoughts via a comment.

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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  1. Well its obvious that Emirates brings more pax and revenue than Lufthansa to MIAL. And also EK has more bargaining power than LH in the Indian Sub-Continent. But its a shame that MIAL just planned 1 CODE-F stand in its 1st phase of construction. Somebody forget to think a little out of box. Hope they will sort out something. I always travel LH 747-8i from BLR and I must admit without a doubt that it is the best in its class.

  2. What happens if an A380 runs on a double arm bridge (instead of tripple?) Sure turn around time would be affected, but is it the slower boarding/alighting the sole reason for not using an A380 on a regular 2 arm gate?

    • The issue is not merely the number of passenger boarding bridges, but the width. The new wing of the Boeing 747-8 is wider than the 747-400 and this pushes it in to Code F category. In Bangalore, before expansion BIAL would park only a narrow body next to the LH 747-8 and accommodate the wider wing. The technical operations manual of the 748 has a work-around for parking on a Code E stand.

      • Is it really necessary to have Code F gates ( with bridges) to plan a 380 service? MIAL can allocate remote stands with stairways. For example in JED ( I have used this 11 times this year), the 380s are serviced by stairs! and bussed to the terminal in appx 10-20 mins. I never felt inconvenienced, except for one occasion due to a passenger who needed medical attention.

        • Shortage of gates cant be the only reason. Cant mumbai do what BLR did for 748 (before expansion), and make space?

          Does every destination that the A380 fly to have Code F gates?….

          • @narayangopalan:disqus, the 748 can be accommodated in a Code E gate if the neighboring gate is left empty or used with a narrow body aircraft.

            The A380 can only fit in a Code F gate. Any airport in the world where the A380 operates scheduled flights will have to have a Code F bay.

            Another point to consider aside from the bay is whether the airport has enough ground equipment to service multiple A380’s. A380 compatible food trucks, etc are required to turn around the Super Jumbo and the airport ground services may not yet have enough equipment to service multiple A380’s at a time. (Just a theory, could be mistaken).

    • The main reason for using a Code F gate (3 Arm Gate) vs a Code E or smaller (2 Arm Gate) is that the A380 will not fit into a smaller gate. The wingspan of an A380 is 79.75m whereas a Code E gate is designed for an airplane with a 65m wingspan or lesser. So aside from the fact that the turnaround time will be affected the actual problem is that to use a smaller gate the A380 will need two gates which the airport will not be able to give them.

  3. What if instead of upgauging, LH goes double daily A330 with the new flatbed? Two morning departures from FRA separated by a few hours. Or maybe a redeye from FRA.

    Does Austrian still fly to Mumbai? Maybe get them to add a flight.