Lessors Pay AAI to Repossess Aircraft

With Kingfisher’s financial status continuing to deteriorate even after reforms like FDI and fuel imports have been instituted, foreign lessors have become increasingly impatient about their repossessions of Kingfisher Aircraft. For the past 2 months, Airports Authority of India has refused to allow lessors to repossess aircraft from Kingfisher due to non-payment of dues. Kingfisher owes AAI over 300 crores (60 million US Dollars).
With increasingly desperate lessors losing revenue each day that the Kingfisher aircraft stay out of service, they have taken to paying AAI directly the amounts which Kingfisher owes. Lessors are paying 1 crore ($200,000) to AAI on behalf of Kingfisher in order to take their aircraft back.
It’s really quite unbelievable that Kingfisher has managed to limp along this long, even with such horrible financial results. The airline is a long way from when they started just a few years ago, a promising full service carrier which took India by storm.

Trip Report: Flying The Dream – Air India 787

This trip report is by Balagopal, an avgeek (Aviation Geek) based in Bangalore.

Introduction:

Being a die hard aviation enthusiast, it was indeed a shame that my first A380 flight was in 2011… a full 4 years after the first commercial whalejet flight!!

But with the Dreamliner I got a chance to correct that  

India’s flag carrier Air India had just taken delivery of its first 787 Dreamliner, after months of haggling and negotiations with Boeing. AI had a placed an order for 27 Dreamliners to replace its ageing fleet of A310s. The first 787 (VT-ANH) was based out of Delhi and was scheduled to do domestic runs to Bangalore and Chennai for crew familiarization.

This gave me the golden opportunity to sample the Dreamliner without the hassles of an international trip.

Booking:

Booking was done via AI‘s website. While the welcome page had a promo ad for 787 flights, there was no mention of the 787 in the flight details. Of the 4 daily flights between Bangalore and Delhi the late afternoon one had no a/c details listed while the rest were on 320/319. I called up the AI call center and the agent confirmed that the flight was on a 788.  

Booking was done online and the fare came to roughly INR 8200 (USD 160 approx).

Pre-Flight:

The second day of operations AI had subbed the 787 for a 77L due to operational reasons. This got me jittery. The only reason I was flying was to experience the Dreamliner. I called up the call center the night before and they confirmed that it was indeed still the 787 flying that sector.

I did a web check-in and the seatmap was that of the 787. I checked myself into 39A (the last row which is in a 2-3-2 config, while the rest are 3-3-3). This would help get a feel of the window seat as well make it easy to access the aisle for all the pic taking  

Row 40 is the reserved crew rest area and is not shown on the seat map.

Flight Day:

I flew to Delhi on a Kingfisher Airlines award ticket on the morning of the flight. After landing at IGI, I went to the transfer counter at the arrival level in T3, just to confirm that the Bangalore flight was still being operated by the 787.

Agent – ” No. Its 403″.

A shocked me – “What?!!..oh wait.. no I didnt mean the flight number (phew!!), the aircraft type”.

Agent – “Oh.. lemme check…. yes it is indeed 788 Dreamliner”. She then proceeded to print a new BP for me and asked if I wanted to change my seat since the last row was non-reclining (surprise surprise!!). I said i chose that because of the two seater, for which she again said it was a 3 seater all the way through. I asked her to check again and she apologized and said it was a 2 seater there.

After printing the BP, she said I need to head to the international departure since this is a widebody aircraft. Once again I had to ask her to confirm and she called up someone and sheepishly told me , it would be the Domestic gates. Not someone’s best day at work!!

Probably she was confused with all the AI international connectors that are 777 operated and depart from the international side.

I took the lift from the transfer desk upto the departure level and headed straight for security.

The now mandatory Elephant Sculpture photo at DEL

This was probably the first time that I was boarding a flight from T3 in broad daylight and it does seem a lot spacious in the day than at night!!

Air India 777-300ER on the international side

Security was very fast and I headed to the food court on level 1 for lunch. As I took the escalator, I was greeted by a sight that made real happy  AI 787 Dreamliner at Gate 32 having arrived from Chennai and being prepped for Bangalore.

Views of IGI airside:








Finally at Gate 32, I come face to face with the beauty!!

The distinctive rear section of the 787

The new 787s are not named yet. The earlier AI birds were named after Indian states (777), Rivers (310), Emperors(747-200), Tourist Spots (747-400), Mountains, Queens etc.

787, here I come!

 

Jetbridge

Welcomed aboard by flight attendant in AI uniform

The hue and atmosphere of the aircraft was very welcoming with “new plane smell” (if there is something like that!! ) and once I got into the flight, tit was almost surreal!!

Forward Economy Cabin

Thanks to the new windows of the 787 the interiors hid the fact that it was broad day light outside!! I think for most people flying the 787 for the first time, this will definitely be a wow moment!!

Aft economy cabin

Its 4 in the afternoon, Sunny and bright outside. Believe it or not!!  

My seat, 39A, with an Air India pillow

The new 787 windows. They are MASSSSSSSSSIVE!!

 

The window control at the bottom. Press up for lighter and down for darker shades

 

Difference between half shut and fully open

 

Full Shut and Full Open

 

Video of the window operations – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SGD0mHGjP6k

Leg space was excellent

Audio-Video On Demand personal televisions

USB Port for charging and Coat Hook

 

AC Vent and Reading Lights

 

 

Tray Fully Open with pre-takeoff Bottle of Water served

 

Dreamliner Safety Card

Note that the exit lettering has been replaced by the new green signage along with pointing arrows. This will specifically come up during safety demonstrations:

New spacious overhead bins

Contrary to what Ms. Clueless at the transfer desk said, the last row on the 787 does recline: 

Rear Galley

Meal Carts

 

Lavatory

 

Seatbelt Sign

 

The safety demo was done manually with the crew highlighting the new exit signage

 

Before the safety demo, all window shades were brought to fully open mode by the crew and post that you cannot change it until after the a/c has reached cruising altitude. This controlled by a button on the doors for each section. This way the crew doesn’t have to go individually asking folks to open windows.

I wonder what would happen during early morning flights. Typically crew come around asking you to pull down the shades. If the crew sets it to full shut mode, you would not have any control on the window  

 

Flight Map

Flight Map

 

Full cabin

 

The take off roll was smooth and a lot less silent than the 777 or 330!!

Video of the take off roll – http://youtu.be/FUfxLMpjaGw

Indira Gandhi International from above

 

During the climb, the crew came on the PA explaining the benefits and features of the new Dreamliner Aircraft, including the lighter material, fuel efficiency and the lower cabin pressure maintained. It ended with how you can experience all that only on Air India   The crew also explained the working of the new Windows and requested all to be gentle with the window control. This was done in Hindi followed by English.

As soon as we reached our cruising altitude the seat belt signs were off and the crew sprung to action.

I managed to grab this shot as one side of the a/c still had windows in full open mode, while the other side had returned to original position. Each side is separately controlled.

The Aisle with the new Boeing interiors

The curve of the overhead bins, make the cabin appear more spacious.

The IFE on the 787 is different from the ones on other AI a/c. The Hindi section is quite comprehensive, while English and Regional languages is quite minimal. One baffling omission was that of TV series – the staple diet for most short-medium haul flights. The video features is primarily documentaries.

Good headsets..probably the best in Y class

The smell of food being being heated in the galley came wafting through the cabin. The cabin crew came around with trollies offering vegetarian and non vegetarian snacks. I opted for the non-veg.

The meal consisted of a Quiche, Grilled Paneer (Cottage Cheese), Puffs, Bread Roll and Butter, Cut Fruits and a dessert which I could not identify.

The Cabin Crew In Charge had some heated words with the crew in my section in Hindi. From what I could make out of it, he wanted the cabin to served beginning from the front, while crew started from rear. Initial teething trouble I guess.

Passengers settling down

 

The poor soul in 37K didn’t get the window he expected

 

 

Cabin lights dimmed

 

Before landing the Cabin Crew In Charge settled down in Row 40 to rest. A female crew came to him saying that they should do the demo now. I was a little surprised as to what this demo was to be!!

The crew took their demo positions and went over the new exit signage once again in both Hindi and English. I asked the crew serving our section why this was done. She told me that since the exit signage on the 787 is drastically different from other a/cs in India, it is mandatory to do this pre-landing briefing.

Crew at demo stations for “pre-landing” safety demo. A first for me.

 

Given that I was in the last row, I got a good opportunity to talk to the crew. Today’s flight was full in Economy and had only 2 empty seats up in Business Class. The second in command today was Capt. Rohit Bhasin, husband of Capt. Nivedita Bhasin – India’s first lady commander and as of now, the only lady to have piloted the Dreamliner for a commercial airline.

Just can’t get over the windows!

 

 

I asked the crew if I could take some pictures of the Business Class cabin and they graciously agreed:

 

 

Reluctantly, I bid goodbye to the Dreamliner and stepped back into Bangalore’s airport.

Overall the trip on the 787 was everything that I expected and then some more!! The Dreamliner provides AI with an excellent ammunition to target hitherto untapped markets like Central Asia, Australia and Africa as well as provide the right sized aircraft for certain long haul destinations like Vancouver or Boston. Hopefully AI will seize this opportunity and the Dreamliner becomes a turning point in Air India’s history. Wishing all the best to Air India!

SpiceJet To Import Fuel From Singapore

SpiceJet will be the first Indian carrier to directly import aviation turbine fuel (ATF) after import rules were liberalized earlier this year. India has some of the highest ATF taxes in the world, and airlines hope to cut their fuel bills by importing fuel.

The airline will bring in ATF from Singapore by sea, before transporting the fuel domestically to airports by truck or rail. With the average tax on ATF at almost 25%, SpiceJet expects to avail of significant savings through this move. SpiceJet hopes to initially cover almost 1/3 of its fuel usage with imported fuel.

High fuel costs have been cited as one of the biggest reasons for the struggles of Indian carriers today.

Air India’s Second Dreamliner, VT-AND, Delivered

Air India’s second Dreamliner, VT-AND, was delivered yesterday. The aircraft is en route to Delhi now, via Frankfurt.

The aircraft will land in Delhi on September 19th around 17:00 IST. It will commence service to Bangalore, Kolkata, and Dubai the following week.

VT-ANH, the first Dreamliner delivered 2 weeks ago, will commence service to Bangalore and Chennai tomorrow.

NTSB Issues Urgent Recommendation Letter Regarding GEnx Engines

The National Transportation Safety Board, the aviation safety regulator in the USA, has issued an urgent recommendation letter regarding General Electric GEnx engines. These engines power Boeing’s latest models, the 747-8 and some 787s. Air India’s 787s are powered by GEnx engines.

The recommendations to the FAA:

Issue an airworthiness directive to require, before further flight, the ultrasonic inspection of the fan midshaft in all General Electric GEnx-1B and -2B engines that have not yet undergone inspection. (A-12-52) Urgent

Require operators to accomplish repetitive inspections of the fan midshaft (FMS) in all (on-wing and spare) General Electric GEnx-1B and -2B engines at a sufficiently short interval that would permit multiple inspections and the detection of a crack before it could reach critical length and the FMS fractures. (A-12-53) Urgent

These recommendations come after GEnx engines experienced major failures recently. The first was on July 28th, when an undelivered Boeing 787 aircraft (bound for Air India) experienced an engine failure in Charleston, causing a grass fire. After inspection, it was found that this failure was due to a fan midshaft fracture. In August, another 787 was found to have a similar crack in the fan midshaft.

On Tuesday, a Boeing 747-8 also had a similar failure in Shanghai. While time has not been sufficient to prepare a full report, the NTSB is concerned enough to issue these recommendations.

This is bad news for Air India, who recently took delivery of the 787. If significant engine issues present themselves, the aircraft may be grounded. The DGCA already dragged its feet on issuing safety clearance for the 787 last month, citing the same engine issues. If the DGCA were to pull the safety clearance, it would be a very big issue for Air India.

Future deliveries have also been delayed further pending clarification from engine manufacturer. The second aircraft, VT-AND, was originally to be delivered early next week.

In addition to Air India, Japan Airlines and Lufthansa operate aircraft powered by the GEnx to India on a regular basis.

Foreign Direct Investment in Aviation Proposal Approved by CCEA

India’s Cabinet Committee for Economic Affairs (CCEA) has approved a proposal to permit foreign airlines to invest in Indian carriers. Foreign carriers would be permitted, by the new rules, to own upto 49% of an Indian carrier. The proposal still has to be passed by parliament, but CCEA approval is a major step forward. Under current regulation, foreign entities can own upto 49% of the Airlines of India, but foreign airlines are specifically excluded.
The press release from the Government of India says:

The Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs has approved the proposal of the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion for permitting foreign airlines to make foreign investment, up to 49 percent in scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services.

Removing the existing restriction on investment by foreign airlines would assist in bringing in strategic investors into the civil aviation sector. Higher foreign investment inflows are necessary at the present juncture, in order to strengthen the sector. Introduction of global best practices, concomitant with the induction of FDI from foreign airlines, is expected to lead to higher service standards, international best practices and induction of state-of-the-art technologies, in the air transport sector.

Until now, foreign airlines were allowed to participate in the equity of companies operating cargo airlines, helicopter and seaplane services, but not in the equity of an air transport undertaking operating scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services. The Government has now permitted foreign airlines to invest, under the Government approval route, in the capital of Indian companies operating scheduled and non-scheduled air transport services, up to the limit of 49 percent of their paid up capital. The 49 percent limit will subsume FDI and FII investment. The investments so made, would need to comply with the relevant regulations of SEBI, such as the Issue of Capital and Disclosure Requirements (ICDR) Regulations / Substantial Acquisition of Shares and Takeovers (SAST) Regulations, as well as other applicable rules and regulations. Such investment would further be subject to the conditions that:

  1. A Scheduled Operator’s Permit can be granted only to a company:
    1. That is registered and has its principal place of business
      within India,
    2. The Chairman and at least two-thirds of the Directors of which
      are citizens of India, and
    3. The substantial ownership and effective control of which is
      vested in Indian nationals.
  2. All foreign nationals likely to be associated with Indian
    Scheduled and Non-Scheduled air transport services, as a result of such
    investment, shall be cleared from security view point before
    deployment, and
  3. All technical equipment that might be imported into India, as a
    result of such investment, shall require clearance from the relevant
    authority in the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

The issue of permitting FDI by foreign airlines in the equity of an air transport undertaking operating Scheduled and Non-Scheduled air transport services has been under consideration of Government for some time. There has been a need to consider financing options available for private airlines in the country, for their operations and service upgradation, and to enable them to compete with other global carriers. Denial of access to foreign capital could result in the collapse of many of our domestic airlines, creating a systemic risk for financial institutions, and a vital gap in the country’s infrastructure.

The total FDI inflows into the air transport sector, during January, 2000 – April, 2012, were US $ 434.75 million, constituting only 0.25 percent of the total FDI inflows into the country.

Kingfisher Airlines has been waiting for months on this decision. They believe that a foreign carrier will be willing to invest. A Kingfisher spokesperson said:

“We are very pleased that the Government has decided to allow foreign Airlines to invest upto 49% in the equity of Indian scheduled Airlines. This will open up a wide range of opportunities for both Indian carriers and foreign carriers who wish to participate in the strong growth potential for Civil Aviation in our Country. Kingfisher will now be able to re-engage with prospective Airline investors in a more meaningful manner and move towards re-capitalization and ramp up of operations.”

This statement is very idealistic in my view – with the amount of debt which Kingfisher has accumulated, the tarnished brand image, and the poor and disorganized state of affairs, it would seem that starting a new carrier would be a better move than trying to turn this failing carrier around.

As Devesh Agarwal at Bangalore Aviation pointed out,

It is important to observe the FDI will not be through the automatic route. Each investment proposal with have to be ‘cleared’ by the Ministry of Civil Aviation and the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB). So one can expect at three to four months for any proposal to come through. Any guesses why this route has been chosen?

This decision will mean that the process for foreign investment will stretch on even longer. It appears unlikely that Kingfisher will be able to continue holding out, so it looks like this decision is targeting the carrier. No doubt the lobbyists of competing carriers want one less competitor to worry about.

Air India’s Domestic 787 Familiarization Schedule Revealed

Air India has revealed the domestic familiarization schedule for the Boeing 787 aircraft.

The routes are effective September 19th, and have been loaded into GDS and the website.

Flight No. Departure Arrival Aircraft Days
AI 439 DEL 07:00 MAA 09:40 787-8 Daily
AI 430 MAA 10:45 DEL 13:25 787-8 Daily
AI 403 DEL 16:30 BLR 19:10 787-8 Daily
AI 404 BLR 20:10 DEL 22:45 787-8 Daily

This schedule is showing through October 27th, the end of the summer schedule.

AI is expected to commence service to Australia with the 787 aircraft in the winter schedule.

SpiceJet Defers Deliveries of 3 Q400s

The last 3 deliveries of SpiceJet’s 15-strong order of Bombardier Dash-8 Q400s have been deferred. SpiceJet has blamed the increase in fees at Delhi International Airport for this decision. The sharp hike in fees at DIAL has caused SpiceJet to require less capacity than expected for its Delhi regional hub.

SpiceJet’s order also allows has 15 options for more aircraft – these options are unlikely to be used in the near future.

 

Air India’s 787 VT-ANH Ready to Depart

Air India’s 787 VT-ANH will depart momentarily to Delhi, via Frankfurt.

It will arrive before 5AM at Frankfurt.

The aircraft is expected to arrive in Delhi around 5PM on Saturday, September 8th

Air India 787: Putting Together the Dreamliner

An excellent video on the production of Air India’s 787-8 Dreamliner: