India lifts ban on Airbus A380 superjumbo
New Delhi – India has lifted its ban on jumbo jet Airbus A380 in a move that will allow international airlines such as Singapore Airlines Ltd, Emirates and Deutsche Lufthansa AG to start flying the world’s largest passenger plane to India, aviation minister Ajit Singh said on Monday.
“Now, flights of A380 to India will be allowed to airports which are equipped to handle them,” the aviation ministry said in a statement.
At present, only four Indian airports – Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore – have the infrastructure needed to handle A380 flights. The decision to lift the ban was taken after consulting with the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), the note said.
“The operation of A380s will help airports generate more revenue, give more comfortable and luxurious travel to passengers, liberalize the civil aviation milieu in India and boost the image of Indian civil aviation in the international market,” the ministry said.
“As per available information, Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Lufthansa are interested in operating A380 aircraft in India on various international routes.”
The gigantic A380, which made its first flight in 2005 and entered commercial service two years later, can carry up to 850 passengers in an all-economy configuration, allowing airlines to transport more travellers without significantly adding flights.
There are 114 A380s serving various routes worldwide, with another 262 on firm order, according to Airbus SAS.
Nine of the 10 airlines that currently fly the A380 have scheduled flights into India.
Emirates and Singapore Airlines said they will review A380 plans for India now.
“We welcome the decision of the Indian aviation authorities to allow A380 operations. Any decision to deploy an A380 on our network is dependent on passenger demand on that particular route, as well as the ability of airports to handle the aircraft,” said an Emirates spokesman.
“We will be reviewing our existing operations, and look forward to serving Indian travellers with our flagship aircraft in the near future.”
“The clearance to deploy A380s 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,” David Lau, general manager (India), Singapore Airlines, said.
Lufthansa said it already has the new Boeing 747-8 intercontinental jet, the next biggest plane, flying into India but did not rule out pressing A380s into service, too.
“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,” a Lufthansa spokesman said.
“Permitting the A380 points to a beginning of the dismantling of competitive and entry barriers. A great positive as it levels the playing field that was heavily stacked in favour of Etihad’s ‘change in gauge’ clause,” said Shakti Lumba, formerly a senior executive with IndiGo and Air India.
He was referring to the advantage Jet Airways (India) Ltd would have in its alliance with Etihad.
Etihad was allowed a gauge change recently under bilateral talks between the UAE and India. A gauge change means, for instance, that Jet passengers can fly on a smaller Airbus A320 from Mumbai to Abu Dhabi and then take a bigger Airbus A380 from Abu Dhabi to London.