To combat Gulf carriers, Lufthansa may fly A380 to India from October

Written by Roudra Bhattacharya | New Delhi | Updated: May 22 2014, 14:52pm hrs
LufthansaLufthansa's A380 super jumbo with 526 seats will both expand capacity and lower operating costs.
German carrier Lufthansa plans to start services of its high-capacity twin-deck Airbus A380 to India starting October-November this year. Lufthansa's A380 super jumbo with 526 seats will both expand capacity and lower operating costs, helping it combat the rising challenge of Gulf-based carriers like Emirates and Etihad, who have cornered a large chunk of India's 45 million inbound and outbound annual (2013) international traffic.

Two civil aviation ministry officials told FE that officials from Lufthansa recently moved an application seeking the start of A380 services from the winter 2014 schedule. The move will require a minor change in the Air Services Agreement (ASA) with Germany, with the current system of flights per week likely being changed to seats per week and allowing A380 operations. Lufthansa currently utilises 46 of the 69 flights per week allowed under the India-Germany ASA.

Lufthansa recently gave an application to start A380 services. A minor change is required in the ASA, which we are discussing with the external affairs ministry. There will be no change in weekly seat entitlements to Germany, so we expect this to be done by June, the official said.

When asked for details over email, a Lufthansa statement said, We change aircraft size according to demand in our long-haul markets and as we already operate all types of long-haul aircraft except the A380 to India, we are also looking forward to operate the A380 to India in the future. We do not have decided yet when and where we will operate the aircraft to. We always aim to be able to offer our Indian customers our top products and we aim to be able to use the variety of all aircraft in our fleet in our long haul markets. Lufthansa currently operates aircraft like the A330, A340-300, A340-600, A380, besides the Boeing 747-400 and B747-8.

Amber Dubey, partner and India head of aerospace and defence at global consultancy KPMG, added the introduction of A380 on European routes will bring fares down, and lead to higher travel by middle-class Indians for tourism. The introduction of A380 by Lufthansa will help bring airfares down and expand the tourist base. It may also help Lufthansa win back some business passengers that they may have lost to Gulf carriers.

An interesting battle is in the offing this winter.

Lufthansa will be the third and likely the last airline to start A380 services to India this year, after Singapore Airlines (SIA) starts daily flights to Mumbai and Delhi from May 30 and Emirates begins its A380 services to Mumbai from July. The addition of A380s have come about after the central government lifted the ban on the high-capacity aircraft in late January this year.

While SIA will focus on the Asian markets, Lufthansa and Emirates will be the only two airlines to offer connections from Indian metros to Europe and the US on the A380, an aircraft that offers more luxury features and space than anything else in its class today. At present, only four airports in the country Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore have the infrastructure to handle the super jumbo.