Singapore Airlines on Friday became the first carrier to launch commercial flights of the world’s largest passenger aircraft Airbus A380 in India. The first flight of the long-haul, wide-body and fully double-decker aircraft — which landed around 8:45 PM at the Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi — was followed by a separate flight to Mumbai, a couple of hours later.
The ministry of civil aviation had, in January this year, cleared the deck for A380 operations from Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore airports, lifting a five-year-old ban. The restriction was imposed in 2008 as the government had then felt these massive jets would help foreign airlines take away a large chunk of global traffic which could be detrimental to Indian carriers’ interests.
The Singapore Airlines-operated ‘superjumbo’, with a total seating capacity of 471 seats, including 12 suites, 60 business and 399 economy class seats, has been deployed in the Singapore-Delhi and Singapore-Mumbai routes replacing those currently operated by Boeing 777 planes to the two cities.
However, Nicholas Ionides, vice-president, public affairs, Singapore Airlines said that the carrier was not averse to looking at other sectors too. Delhi and Mumbai are, respectively, the 11th and 12th A380 destinations for the airline, which currently operates 49 weekly flights to India from six cities — New Delhi, Mumbai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Chennai and Bangalore.
It also flies the A380 to destinations such as Paris, Frankfurt, London, Zurich, Tokyo and Hong Kong. The airline, the first in the world to operate the A380 in October 2007 between Singapore and Sydney, also plans to operate the plane to Auckland by the end of the year.
“The A380 has received an overwhelming response from the Indian travelers. This reiterates our belief in the Indian market and their aspirations to travel the world which has been the key factor for Singapore Airlines’ growth story in India,” David Lau, General Manager – India, said at the launch of the A380 operations to India.
The carrier has offered special fares for premium seats and bonus frequent flyer miles to mark the launch of the superjumbo flights in the country. As part of the launch offer, the PPS Club — the frequent flyer club for Singapore Airlines’ premium passengers — will get a 10 per cent discount on the ‘suites’ ticket on the Airbus A380. ‘Suites’ is Singapore Airlines’ first class product on the A380 which offers full bed in addition to other amenities.
Meanwhile, according to reports, Dubai-based Emirates Airways would be the second airline to deploy Airbus A380s from July 21 in India. The Emirates A380, operating on the Dubai-Mumbai route, will feature 14 private first class suites, 76 business class lie-flat seats and 399 economy class seats.
The correspondent travelled to Singapore at the invitation of Singapore Airlines