New Delhi: Passengers on some domestic flights, usually between two metros, are enjoying the benefits of flying in bigger aircraft, as airlines deploy Boeing 747 jumbos, Boeing 777s, Boeing Dreamliner 787s, and Airbus A330s to cope with higher traffic and slot constraints at some airports that limit the number of flights.
Air India Ltd and Jet Airways Ltd have both done this, the former now operating 16 daily flights on bigger aircraft, and the latter, 8.
For passengers, this means more room, sometimes, more and better food.
“The feel of travelling in a bigger aircraft is so much better,” said an Air India official, who did not wish to be named, “There is more leg room and the food is better because bigger planes have different food trays (than smaller ones).”
Jet said it “now connects four major metros with domestic wide body services” as it has “received overwhelming response from the guests”.
Using bigger aircraft also makes sense at a time when airports, especially India’s two busiest ones at New Delhi and Mumbai, have no more slots for new flights.
An Airbus A320/Boeing 737 can fly about 150 passengers in a business and economy class configuration, while an Air India 747 jumbo with its 423 seats, including first, business and economy, can fly more than double that capacity in one go.
“With 20% plus sustained growth of Indian domestic market; no new major airline joining the competition and capacity augmentation trailing market growth rate, airlines are being able to conveniently deploy large capacity aircraft assured of good load factors and without upsetting the frequency USP,” said former Air India executive director Jitender Bhargava.
Most airlines have been running occupancy of over 80% on their flights touching 90% on good months on the back of double-digit growth over the last two years, fuelled by cheaper oil prices and lower fares.
Indian airlines typically use narrow-body Boeing 737s and Airbus A320s on their domestic network.
Bigger planes also fly faster. This means passengers can benefit from a early arrivals, said an Air India pilot, who flies the Boeing 747 and asked not to be named.
Air India’s Boeing Dreamliner 787 also comes with the advantage of higher cabin pressure that results in better humidity, reducing passenger fatigue, dry eyes and headaches, according to Boeing.
There is a downside for both passengers and airlines, though, according to Steve Forte, the former CEO of Jet.
Bigger planes mean longer boarding and deplaning time and a longer wait at the baggage carousel for the passengers; for the airlines, it means more fuel consumption on the ground, he explained.