India may allow foreign carriers to operate Airbus A380

If all goes well, the world's largest aircraft, Airbus A380, may eventually take flight from India. The Ministry of Civil Aviation has commenced a traffic and fare impact study for this huge aircraft across various countries which permit its operations. It has also begun to seriously consider requests by Emirates, Lufthansa AG and Singapore Airlines to bring the A380 to Indian airports. The three carriers had placed requests for bringing in this aircraft years back but only now is the ministry even beginning to study the matter.

As of now, the bilateral agreements under which various countries operate flights to India do not allow the use of this aircraft. Multiple sources in the ministry said today that a study has been commissioned to find out how the arrival of such a big aircraft will impact traffic and fares.

Airbus A380. AFP

Airbus A380. AFP

They made it clear that the apprehension of Indian carriers-arrival of such a large aircraft would mean their load factors are negatively impacted-were unfounded since the respective foreign airlines will not be allowed to breach the total number of weekly seats allowed under the bilateral pacts.

"We are clear that if A380 is allowed then airlines which use this aircraft will still adhere to the overall weekly seat entitlement limit. This permission will not be granted on the basis of number of flight frequencies," top official sources said.

With some countries, India has a bilateral Air Services Agreement based on number of weekly seats while with others it has one on the basis of weekly frequencies (number of flights). Of the three airlines which stand to gain if A380 is allowed to fly in, India has seat wise ASAs with Dubai and Singapore. And the ASA with Germany will have to be amended if Lufthansa indeed wishes to fly in the large aircraft.

The A380 can take over 500 passengers on a single flight and a recurrent fear of Indian airlines has been that this kind of seat capacity means effectively wiping out traffic for many European destinations and other lucrative routes and leaving little room for them to do business.

Sources quoted earlier said that Indian carriers will also be called for a meeting to discuss any objections and then a decision will be taken. They said as of now, Delhi airport is ready to handle this large aircraft, the new terminal at Mumbai and Hyderabad airport can handle it too. With some minor alterations, airports at Kolkata and Chennai too can handle A380 operations.