New Delhi: UB Group-owned Kingfisher Airlines Ltd plans to deploy its wide-body aircraft meant to fly international routes on domestic sectors such as Delhi-Bangalore for a few months as it waits for an August-end schedule to start international flights pending a merger with Deccan Aviation Ltd, which it bought late last year.
Nearly 10 wide-body aircraft, including the Airbus SAS-made A330, which can fly from India to Europe, and the A340, which can fly non-stop from India to the US, are slated to join the airline’s fleet of about 80 aircraft, starting May-end.
While Deccan, which is merging with the two-year-old Kingfisher, has been granted an “in-principle” approval by the civil aviation ministry to fly abroad from August-end, it is likely that the airline will fly only under Kingfisher’s brand name.
Meanwhile, the airline plans to use the first of the two A330s that come end-May for thrice a day services between Delhi-Bangalore starting the first week of June.
The arrangement will also help the carrier, a company official said, in training its international crew including pilots, who need to clock additional training hours to meet international flying norms as set by aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation.
Kingfisher flies five daily flights between Delhi and Bangalore using its A321 aircraft in addition to two daily A320 Deccan flights, some of which could then be replaced.
Wide-body aircraft such as A330, though, are best suited for flying distance of over five hours unlike the Delhi-Bangalore sector which is about 2 hours 30 minutes.
Still, it was best to keep the aircraft flying instead of keeping them on the ground, said Kapil Arora, an aviation analyst with consultancy Ernst and Young.
He added that the challenge for Kingfisher would be to fill the plane with passengers which has as many as 260 seats, compared with nearly 180 on the A320s.
“Unless you are forced to do it, you would not place a wide- body aircraft on short-haul routes,” Arora said. “The time spent in taxing, waiting to land and take off at domestic airports shaves off your revenue. Internationally, because you spend more time flying, your aircraft utilization is high and also the yields.”
Kingfisher would also be placing capacity on domestic routes at a time when slipping load factors have been a major concern for all the domestic airlines.
The airline itself had reported a load factor of 65.4% with Deccan’s 69% for March, the last month for which the data has been released by DGCA.
Flying wide-body planes on domestic routes also throws up other issues which the carrier is trying to address.
For example, while getting a parking bay at the new international airport in Bangalore, which opens in May, is easy, the same UB group official said the airline is finding it tough to secure a parking bay at the Delhi airport for its wide-body aircraft.
It can take as much as half an hour for the aircraft to taxi itself for takeoff if it is not stationed around the domestic terminal thereby cutting down on efficiency.