Airbus Group NV (AIR) said India’s easing of rules that banned its A380 superjumbos operating into the country may prompt several carriers to start services with the plane this year to the world’s second-most populous nation.
At least three carriers have sought India’s permission to operate the A380, Kiran Rao, an executive vice president at Airbus, said in an interview today. Flights with the world’s biggest passenger jet to the country may start by end of this year, he said, without naming any airline.
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Emirates and Deutsche Lufthansa AG are among carriers that are interested in operating the double-decker aircraft to India where passenger numbers are forecast to triple to 452 million by 2020. Airlines will be allowed to fly the plane to the nation’s four airports, including New Delhi and Mumbai, the Aviation Ministry said last month.
“It’s a country of 1.2 billion people and a market that’s growing,” Rao said at the Singapore Airshow. “The only way to meet that demand is with A380s.”
A380 flights will help Indian airports boost revenue and give additional options to passengers, the government said Jan. 27. Aircraft bigger than the Boeing Co. (BA:US) 747 were banned because of concerns that passengers may desert state-owned Air India Ltd. and local operators already struggling with the region’s highest fuel charges and cut-throat competition.
Emirates, the biggest operator of the A380, Lufthansa, and Singapore Airlines Ltd., the superjumbo’s first customer, all have welcomed India’s decision. Emirates said it will review its existing operations and look forward to “serving Indian travelers with our flagship aircraft in the near future.”
A three-class configuration of the A380 can carry 525 passengers, while in a single-class configuration, the jet can carry as many as 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. (KAIR), controlled by liquor baron Vijay Mallya, was the only Indian company to have ordered the A380. Airbus has canceled that order after the debt-laden carrier forced to ground its fleet more than a year ago.
The planemaker today announced a firm order for 20 A380s from lessor Amedeo. The $8.3 billion contract, first announced at the Paris Air Show last year, is the first for the aircraft this year. Dubai’s Emirates agreed to buy 50 more A380s in November, bringing the number of superjumbos it has ordered to 140, half the entire backlog for the plane.
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