Air India returns home

Today, 27th January 2022 is a historic day for Indian aviation. Today is the day, India’s flag carrier Air India finally returns home!

69 years after it was nationalized, Air India has been formally taken over by the Tata Group today.

Air India was founded by J.R.D. Tata in 1932, and was originally called Tata Airlines. It was later converted to a public limited company and renamed as Air India. Back in the day, Air India was one of the world’s leading airlines both in terms of service and technology. It was the first Asian airline to enter the jet age when it inducted the first Boeing 707 in 1960.

A decade later, Air India inducted the first Boeing 747-200 into its fleet and introduced the Palace in the Sky branding and livery.

It was nationalized and taken over by the Government of India in 1953. Air India focused on international routes while a new airline company, Indian Airlines was formed to take over domestic routes.

The airline had a rocky history as a government owned entity, and its service standards dipped. Poor customer service, low on-time performance, worn out aircraft interiors tarnished the reputation of the Maharaja. Multiple efforts were made to improve the airline’s standing through the years, but none could turn its fortunes around.

As part of a consolidation exercise, Air India was merged with Indian Airlines in 2007 to create a mega carrier with a large, diverse aircraft fleet and an even larger workforce. It was invited to join Star Alliance in 2007 but with the airline merger proving to be a difficult undertaking, Air India could not meet the joining requirements.

After an excruciatingly long process of integration, Air India finally joined Star Alliance in July 2014, a full seven years after it was originally invited! It was and is the only airline from India to be part of a global airline alliance.

The Government of India had been making efforts to privatize the airline for decades, but none of those were successful. The airline kept posting losses year after year and had to be bailed out using taxpayer money. At the same time, the influx of lean privately operated airlines, especially low cost carriers kept eroding Air India’s market share.

Starting 2020, the privatization efforts gathered steam, and finally in October 2021, the Tata Group (through a Special Purpose Vehicle – Talace Private Limited) won the bid to acquire Air India from the Government of India, thus completing a full circle in the airline’s history.

The future of Air India looks bright in the hands of its original owners. The Tata Group is known for its high standards in customer service especially in the hospitality and travel industries. How they manage to tame the jumbo (no pun intended 🙂 ) remains to be seen. The decline in air travel due to the pandemic as well as other issues such as handling the bloated workforce and integrating Air India with other airlines in the portfolio such as Vistara are immediate challenges that will need to be addressed.

Here’s wishing the Tatas all the best, and hope they can restore the Maharaja to its former glory!

Emirates Airbus A380 returns to Kuala Lumpur in July 2022

After a long absence due to the ongoing pandemic, Emirates will re-introduce its flagship Airbus A380 superjumbo to Kuala Lumpur from July 2nd 2022.

Emirates A380 wearing the Expo 2020 Opportunity livery brings in EK 346 from DXB

Emirates used to operate its two class 615-seater A380s to Kuala Lumpur on the EK 346/EK 347 rotation before the pandemic hit in early 2020.

The flights are currently operated by a Boeing 777-300ER.

The proposed schedule of the A380 flights between Dubai and Kuala Lumpur looks like this:

EK 346 DXB D 0310. KUL A 1425. A380

EK 343. KUL D 0240 DXB A 0530. A380

The afternoon arrival is a great opportunity for plane spotters to catch the arrival of the superjumbo at KUL. With the MH A380s not likely to return to service in the future, this would be the only A380 operation at KUL for the time being.

Of course, all this is *IF* this upgrade actually materialises, subject to Malaysian border restrictions/reopening in the next few months.

Akasa Air orders 72 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

Akasa Air orders 72 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft

DUBAI, Nov 16 2021 – India’s Akasa Air has placed an order for 72 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft at the Dubai Airshow 2021. The order, which was being rumored in aviation circles for the past few weeks has now finally been confirmed.

Akasa Air is a yet to be launched “Ultra Low Cost Airline” and is backed by billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala. The airline expects to start domestic operations by the summer of 2022.

The order for 72 aircraft includes two variants – The 737 MAX 8 and the high density 737- 8-200, which can seat up to 200 passengers in a single class configuration. The order is valued at around 8 billion USD at list prices, although steep discounts are often offered to customers.

This order marks a major win for Boeing in the Indian aviation market which is dominated by Airbus A320 family narrowbody aircraft. The only other airlines currently flying that operate Boeing narrowbody aircraft are SpiceJet, Air India Express and a handful of aircraft by Vistara.

Boeing put out the following tweet and press release announcing the Akasa Air order.

Akasa Air’s order will also mark the debut of the high density Boeing 737- 8-200 in the Indian market. As previously mentioned, this variant can fit up to 200 passengers in a single class configuration. The increased number of seats is made possible by reducing galley space and using slimline seats. The higher passenger number also necessitates the provision of an additional pair of emergency exits aft of the wing. Irish low cost carrier Ryanair was the launch customer of this high density variant.

End of the road for the Airbus A380!

Gosh! I never imagined I would be writing an article with this title so soon!

I mean, it just seems like it was yesterday when the Airbus A380 “Superjumbo” took to the skies! It’s been less than 14 years since the A380 first flew and it has been in service for just over 12 years!!!

But it *IS* true. Airbus today (February 14th 2019) announced that it will deliver the last of its largest passenger aircraft in 2021, thus effectively pulling the plug on the iconic double-decker A380. The fact that the Boeing 747 – the original Jumbo jet that first flew in February 1969 is expected to remain in production (as of now), and that the Airbus announcement comes barely 5 days after the Boeing 747 celebrated the 50th anniversary of its first flight just makes the whole thing quite ironic.

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If the Boeing 747 revolutionised and up-sized long haul air travel, the A380 made it grander! The aircraft’s size was unprecedented, with a wingspan that is wider than the length of Airbus’s massively popular narrow-body A320 and a full length twin-aisle upper deck. It also was much quieter and more fuel efficient and flew farther than the Boeing 747. This meant that the Superjumbo often drew comparison to the Jumbo, which it was originally poised to replace.

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However, the sheer size of the aircraft meant that airports needed to invest tons of money to upgrade err… up-size their infrastructure. The cost of maintaining as well as operating these behemoths is colossal too. The development of large wide-body twin engined jets that are capable of flying passengers cheaper, faster and farther was the final nail in the coffin for the A380.

The Airbus announcement came along with the news that Emirates – the largest operator of the A380 has ordered a total of 70 brand new twin-engined Airbus aircraft. The Dubai based carrier announced an order of 40 Airbus A330-900neo and 30 Airbus A350-900 wide-body aircraft. Emirates trimmed its original order of 162 A380s to 123 jets. Even though the airline will still take delivery of 14 more A380s (more than the size of the total A380 fleet in most airlines) between 2019 and 2021, the intent was clear. That Airbus announced its decision to pull the plug on the Superjumbo on the same day should come as no surprise.

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Make no mistake – the A380 will be around for more than a decade at least. Most A380 airframes are less than 10 years old and still have a lot of life left in them. If you’re one of those that have never set foot inside one of these gigantic aircraft, there is more than enough time to fly on them.

Will we ever see an aircraft larger than the A380, or at least as large as it being built in the future? Highly unlikely, but who knows? Only time will tell…