India lifted a ban on Airbus Group NV (AIR) A380s from flying into the country, a move that will allow Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) and Emirates to send the double-decker plane to the world’s second-most populous nation.
Airlines will be allowed to fly the world’s biggest passenger jet to four Indian airports, including New Delhi and Mumbai, the Civil Aviation Ministry said in a statement today. A380 services will be subject to traffic entitlements within bilateral agreements, it said.
Singapore Airlines Ltd. (SIA) is also interested in operating the plane to India, the ministry said. Under previous rules, carriers were banned from operating aircraft bigger than the Boeing Co. (BA:US) 747 because of concerns that passengers may desert state-run Air India and local operators already struggling with the region’s highest fuel charges and cut-throat competition.
“A great move,” said Amber Dubey, a Gurgaon, India-based partner at KPMG. “The A380s will help bring down fares and improve the cost competitiveness of the Indian tourism sector.”
Services with the A380 will help Indian airports generate more revenue and give additional options to passengers, the ministry said. Facilities in Bangalore and Hyderabad in southern India are also equipped to handle the superjumbo, it said.
Emirates, the biggest customer for the A380, Lufthansa, and Singapore Air, the superjumbo’s first operator, all welcomed India’s decision. Emirates said it will be reviewing its existing operations and “look forward to serving Indian travelers with our flagship aircraft in the near future.”
Lufthansa will examine the change in Indian policy to see what opportunities it provides, though the airline has no immediate plan to fly the A380 to the country, spokesman Aage Duenhaupt said by telephone.
Foreign airlines are attracted by the growing aviation market in India where passenger traffic is forecast to triple to 452 million by 2020. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s government has also eased investment rules and upgraded airports across the country to support growth.
The decision to permit A380 services was made after consulting Air India, Airports Authority of India and industry regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation, according to the ministry statement.
A three-class configuration of the A380 can carry 525 passengers, while in a single-class configuration, the jet can carry up to 853 passengers, according to Airbus. It says the plane’s two decks offer 50 percent more floor surface than any other high-capacity aircraft.
Kingfisher Airlines Ltd., owned by liquor baron Vijay Mallya, was the only Indian company to have ordered the A380. Airbus canceled the order last year after the debt-laden carrier was forced to ground its fleet more than a year ago.
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