India’s Kingfisher Airlines is dead (all claims by founder Vijay Mallya to the contrary) and the vultures are circling its carcass, picking up the scraps as they try to move forward. Air India is hoping to take over several of the old check-in counters at Mumbai’s airport and local LCC GoAir is hoping to move their operations into the terminal where Kingfisher was previously operating. That move would include taking over the office space in addition to flight operations. And Jet Airways has already applied to buy some of the route authorities Kingfisher surrendered when they ceased operations. More than 120 international frequencies to eight countries were idled when Kingfisher shut down.
I’m sad that Kingfisher is dead. I got to fly them in 2005 and had a great time on the short flight; I even still use the small amenity kit case I got on that flight to carry my liquids (yes, it is clear, has a zipper and is less than 1 quart). But they are dead and no amount of hoping or dreaming seems likely to change that. It is about time that the Indian aviation world moves on, letting other carriers take advantage of those resources and growing the markets.
Among the many rumors circulating about the return of Boeing‘s 787 Dreamliner to the skies is one which involves the suspension of the ETOPS rating on the plane pending a significant number of flight hours to validate the proposed fixes. The plane entered service with certification to fly a long way from diversion airports; with the GE engines the rating was 330 minutes, more than 5 hours. And while the engines may still operate safely for that long there are concerns about the batteries and just how far from a diversion airport the planes should stray. Without any special ETOPS ratings the limit would be 60 minutes, roughly 400 nautical miles. That limits a lot of routes including many which the 787 was already flying or slated to operate. Here’s a map of (most of) the announced 787 routes showing 60 minute ETOPS blackout zones:
What is most surprising to me is actually how many of the routes DO work, even with this limitation in place. Service between North and South America has a couple small no-go zones but many routes would actually work pretty well. And any deviation from the optimal routings wouldn’t be too significant distance-wise. Between North America and Europe there is a path which allows for 60 minute ETOPS travel, crossing over the southern tip of Greenland as part of the trip. The route is already commonly used, especially eastbound to take advantage of the jetstream, though westbound traffic uses it less often. LOT’s Warsaw-Chicago route could make a go of it with minimal adjustments.
United Airlines‘ planned Denver-Tokyo route doesn’t quite work perfectly, but the diversion required to make it happen isn’t all that bad; Los Angeles to Tokyo would not work so well. And the east-bound versions of these flights typically fly much further south to take advantage of the prevailing winds.
Similarly, Qatar’s planned Europe service would be OK with minor deviations, as would Air India’s.
And most of the Asia service being run by JAL and ANA would be permissible. There are a few routes which will just not work. Houston-Lagos and Santiago-Madrid have chunks of the routes which won’t allow for easy adjustments to meet the non-ETOPS rules.
But, despite my concerns when I started reading about this last night, it seems that the 60 minute limit could actually still fly, so to speak.
No doubt that these “alternate” routes will affect the efficiency of the flights and will take away from the ability to realize the lower operating costs and other benefits that the 787 was supposed to bring to the airlines. That said, having the planes in the air is better than having them grounded. And if the rumored 250,000 hours of no-incident flying to regain ETOPS certification is true then these slightly longer routes might actually help get things back to normal sooner than not.
Assuming the batteries cooperate, of course.
It would appear that Star Alliance remains focused on seeing an Indian carrier join the global alliance, despite issues with prior efforts to integrate Air India into the group. Jet Airways has long been considered the likely candidate to join the alliance but such a move requires the permission of the Indian government. That permission has now been formally requested.
It is hard to know if the Indian authorities have gotten over their state carrier being denied entry into the group sufficiently to allow for a move such as this to happen. That said, they were willing to allow Kingfisher to join oneworld, right up to the point that Kingfisher more or less collapsed on itself. So it isn’t alliances in general which are on the out. Still, the fact that Star Alliance denied Air India entry to the group could be troubling for Jet’s application.
Gaining a partner in the Indian markets will be a huge win for any of the global alliances, assuming any of them can actually make it happen. Access to domestic and regional flights ex-India as part of a marketing alliance is one of the biggest gaps globally today.
One of the bigger headlines out of New Delhi today is that an Air India 787 Dreamliner made the trip over from Seattle yesterday. The plane is in India for the India Aviation 2012 conference which starts in Hyderabad later in the week. And with all the bad news lately out of India’s aviation sector seeing the local colors on the newest jetliner should be a welcome sign. And it probably would be, except that the plane really isn’t Air India’s.
|An Air India 787 awaiting delivery from Boeing.
The aircraft still belongs to Boeing and no deliveries for Air India have been formally scheduled yet, so this isn’t "real" in that context. Plus there is still some question as to whether the carrier will manage to take delivery of the aircraft, though the recent financing deal with the Export-Import bank in the USA seems to have quelled most of those. Then again, the lobbying arm of the USA-based carriers is still opposing the financing deal, so who knows what will happen there.
Great to see those colors flying on the bird…hopefully they continue to do so.
Kingfisher was dealt a potential death blow yesterday when the airline was suspended from IATA’s ticketing clearinghouse due to reported non-payment. The clearinghouse is used by hundreds of airlines to process payments for interline tickets and other multi-carrier transactions. Roughly 80% of interline transactions worldwide are settled through the system so being suspended is a huge blow to the carrier.
The company claims the suspension was triggered automatically by the IATA systems when a technical glitch prevented their scheduled payment from reaching the clearinghouse:
As a result of a recent internal system failure, certain credits did not hit our ICH account in time, triggering an automatic suspension. Kingfisher would like to confirm that all its dues via ICH have been settled in full and it has absolutely no outstanding due as of date,
Despite claiming to be current it appears that IATA has not yet commented or reinstated the carrier to the systems.
Adding fuel to the fire is the announcement today that the planned February 10, 2012 ascension of Kingfisher into oneworld is being delayed, with no revised date yet announced. FlightGlobal is carrying the story, with quotes from both oneworld and Kingfisher executives on this latest development. Said oneworld CEO Bruce Ashby:
These are turbulent times for the airline industry in India and many other parts of the world. We have been working closely with Kingfisher Airlines over the past months and it has become increasingly clear recently that the airline needs more time to resolve the financial issues it is confronting before it can be welcomed into Oneworld. Will work with Kingfisher Airlines with the aim of setting a new joining date once it is through this current period of turbulence.
This delay is somewhat reminiscent of the frequent delays that Air India suffered in their attempts to join Star Alliance over the past few years. Those efforts were eventually scuttled after multiple delays.
Without access to interline booking revenue is seems unlikely that Kingfisher will be able to realize the revenue needed to pull themselves out of their financial morass. With many unpaid or severely delayed bills the future of the carrier is very much in question. It is not surprising that the alliance is not interested in bringing the carrier on board as their liabilities for interline travel could be significant.
This is a serious blow for oneworld, as another member carrier, Malev, ceased operations today, also under financial pressures they could not overcome.
Not a good day in the aviation world at all.
Hat tip to Flying With Fish for the head’s up on this one.
Star Alliance and Air India announced yesterday that the long-pending integration of the airline into the world’s largest global alliance has been suspended. This is the latest in a series of delays announced regarding the carrier’s intention to join the group.
Star Alliance CEO, Jaan Albrecht said: "With the collective decision to put the integration efforts on hold today we aim to contribute to Air India’s flexibility to concentrate on its ongoing strategic reorientation. In this process our member carriers will continue to provide assistance to Air India wherever required."
It was just a couple months ago that the carrier stated they felt ready to finally join the alliance. Apparently that was all bluff, however. Given the financial turmoil the carrier is currently in the midst of it is not particularly surprising that this move came about.
The real question now for the alliance is what happens in India. Kingfisher has already committed to the oneworld alliance. There had been additional rumors of Jet Airways joining with Star Alliance but that was apparently on hold until Air India could get things figured out. With this latest suspension of the Air India efforts could that open up the opportunity for Jet to make a move?
The air travel market in India is huge and growing rapidly. Getting partners in that market is a very important move for these alliances. Sadly, it seems that Star Alliance latched on to the wrong initial partner and is now paying the price for that decision.