With increasing numbers of Airbus A380s in their fleets, Asian and Middle East airlines are growing impatient to start deploying the super-large widebodies on services to and from India. But the Indian government’s policy of sheltering national carrier Air India from competition is preventing carriers such as Lufthansa, Emirates and Singapore Airlines (SIA) from using aircraft larger than the Boeing 747 under the terms of existing air services agreements.
The number of Indians traveling abroad is set to rise from the current 15 million to 50 million by 2020, according to a study by Tourism Australia. “The increase in international traffic last year by 4 to 5 percent over the previous year is music to the ears of A380 operators as volumes are essential and India has the numbers,” said Kapil Kaul, CEO for South Asia with the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation.
For now, India’s civil aviation ministry continues to send mixed signals as to whether it will give clearance for A380s to be deployed on routes serviced by the country’s Jet Airways when its Abu Dhabi-based shareholder Etihad takes delivery of the aircraft from next year. This is adding to the confusion over the Indian government’s policy.
“India needs to move away from making ad hoc decisions and should announce a civil aviation policy that, once cleared by the cabinet, cannot be changed at the whims and fancies of people at the helm,” Kaul told AIN.
Dubai’s Emirates Airline, which has 33 A380s on order and holds options for 57 more, is eager to boost services to India. The carrier’s CEO, Tim Clark, has made it clear that he would like to deploy A380s on flights to Mumbai and Dehli. SIA chief executive Goh Choon Phong told AIN last year that the southeast Asian airline has hopes of being able to operate A380s to and from India.
According to CAPA, there are 103 A380s in service, 19 of them with SIA, and Singapore and Dubai are the main hubs for the services operated by the aircraft.
Of the 1,048 weekly A380 flights, Emirates operates 402 while SIA flies 190. The airport with the most A380 operators is Hong Kong, followed by Paris and Los Angeles.