India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) recently released its monthly aviation data for August, shedding light on the performance of various airlines operating in the country. Among the key highlights, Vistara, a prominent full-service carrier, emerged as a notable winner, experiencing significant growth in its market share and load factor. Meanwhile, newcomer Akasa Air faced challenges due to limited pilot availability, resulting in flight cancellations and delays.
Vistara's Market Share Ascends
Vistara's performance in August positioned it as the second-largest player in India's domestic aviation market. The airline's market share increased to 9.8%, a notable improvement from the 8.4% it held the previous month. While IndiGo maintained its dominant lead with a commanding share of 63.3%, Vistara shared the second position with another Tata Group-owned airline, Air India, which also secured a 9.8% market share. AirAsia India followed closely behind with a 7.1% share, while SpiceJet and Akasa Air accounted for 4.4% and 4.2% of the market, respectively.
Vistara's Impressive Load Factor
In addition to expanding its market share, Vistara achieved the highest load passenger factor (PLF) among all Indian airlines in August, further solidifying its competitive position. Vistara's load factor reached an impressive 91.3, indicating a high occupancy rate on its flights. SpiceJet came in a close second with a PLF of 90.9, showing a continued uptick from the previous month's 88.9.
Akasa Air Faces Pilot Shortage Woes
While Vistara celebrated its success in August, Akasa Air faced operational challenges due to a limited number of available pilots. This shortage led to numerous flight cancellations and delays, affecting the airline's performance and customer satisfaction. Despite these setbacks, Akasa Air managed to secure the third-best load factor among Indian carriers, with a PLF of 87.3.
Load Factors of Other Major Airlines
Among the other major players in India's aviation sector, Air India, IndiGo, and AirAsia India reported load factors of 84.5, 83.6, and 82.4, respectively. These figures reflect the varying degrees of passenger occupancy experienced by these carriers during the month of August.
Vistara's remarkable performance in August, with an increased market share and the highest load factor among Indian airlines, underscores its growing influence in the domestic aviation landscape. While Vistara continues to challenge the dominance of IndiGo, Akasa Air's struggle with pilot shortages serves as a reminder of the operational hurdles that new entrants can face in a highly competitive industry.
As the aviation sector in India continues to evolve, airlines must adapt to changing circumstances, including the availability of pilots and the shifting preferences of passengers. The DGCA's monthly data offers valuable insights into these dynamics, providing a clear picture of how different airlines are faring in the Indian market.
Air India Introduces Integrated Self-Baggage Drop Service at Delhi Airport T3
Tata Group-owned Air India has introduced an integrated self-baggage drop and self-kiosk check-in service at Terminal 3 Delhi Airport for domestic and international flights, becoming the first Indian carrier to do so. The service is currently available for all Australia-bound flights as well as for all flights within India.
Delhi Airport introduced a self-baggage drop facility in June this year, with IndiGo becoming the first airline to use it for its domestic flights. It was decided that the facility would eventually be extended for international flights and to international carriers after successful testing. With the airport experience increasingly becoming time-consuming and more stressful for passengers, this facility eliminates the waiting time for check-in over the counters. Air India plans to offer this for flights to more countries and intends to introduce it at other airports in India and other parts of the world.
With this new feature, Air India passengers can seamlessly complete the digital check-in process, including printing boarding passes and baggage tags, and drop off their luggage independently, eliminating the need to go through traditional check-in counters. Additionally, the kiosks empower travellers to easily customise their trips by selecting preferred seats and updating frequent flyer details, among other options.
Rajesh Dogra, Chief Customer Experience & Ground Handling Officer, Air India, said, “This facility eliminates the queue waiting time for check-in over the counters and helps travellers to nearly breeze through the airport. We not only plan to extend this for flights to more countries around the world but also intend to introduce it at other airports in India as well as at major airports in other parts of the world. Our continued effort remains to simplify processes and elevate customer experience, for our guests to enjoy travelling as much as we love flying them. With the successful implementation of the DigiYatra initiative for domestic flights, the self-baggage drop facility adds to the convenience for travellers, right from helping them to gain hassle-free entry to the airport, to managing the check-in process on their own.”
Air India’s ‘Project Abhinandan’
Earlier this week, Air India announced having rolled out ‘Project Abhinandan’ whereby the carrier has deployed specially trained Service Assurance Officers at 16 major Indian airports to proactively sense passenger concerns and offer on-ground assistance across airport touchpoints.
They will be available at airports in addition to the other Air India and ground handling agencies’ staff. Air India has already recruited and deployed over 100 such officers across airports, as per the statement, and they will assist any Air India guest, regardless of the cabin class one is booked in.
Air India’s Service Assurance Officers at airports will assist any Air India guest, regardless of the cabin class one is booked in, requiring airport assistance at Ahmedabad, Bengaluru, Calicut, Chennai, Delhi, Goa, Guwahati, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Lucknow, Mumbai, Nagpur, Pune, Varanasi and Vishakhapatnam.
The development comes as the airline has been taking proactive measures to redefine, rebrand, and reimagine all aspects of its service, from physical appearance and logos to guest experience. This is especially important to Tata Sons as the conglomerate is working to merge Air India with its other full-service carrier Vistara post the acquisition of the former from the government.
Premium Lounge Network Expansion
Air India is working quite hard to elevate the travel experience for its premium customers. Air India has expanded the coverage of lounge access from 16 to 26 airports in the country as part of its ambitious 5-year transformation strategy, Vihaan.AI. The airline has successfully established strategic alliances with airport lounges in important cities including Dibrugarh, Indore, Jammu, Lucknow, Madurai, Mangalore, Nagpur, Patna, Srinagar, and Vadodara.
To expand its premium hospitality, the airline has deliberately partnered with top-notch food courts at 11 airports where dedicated lounges were not available. This step further ensures that Air India’s premium passengers can enjoy top-class services at lounges or food courts at an impressive 37 airports across India.
But Air India‘s commitment to excellence doesn’t end within the borders of India. The airline has gone above and beyond to provide an unparalleled lounge experience to its premium customers at all 41 destinations in its international route network. By collaborating with the finest lounges at multiple international airports, Air India has achieved 100% lounge access coverage for its elite travellers.
The airline’s lounge network has been expanded to include some renowned international lounges. Passengers can now enjoy the Swissport Lounge at Chicago, the SAS Lounge at New York-Newark Liberty, and Japan Airlines’ Sakura Lounge at Tokyo Narita. In addition, Air India has transitioned to the Singapore Airlines SilverKris Lounge in Bangkok and the Balaka Executive Lounge at Dhaka airports, further enriching the premium travel experience.
Akasa Air Seeks INR 22 Crore as Compensation From 43 Pilots for Not Serving Notice Period
Akasa Air on September 16 said it has taken legal action against a "small set of pilots" for leaving the airline without serving their notice period. The departure of pilots had led to the cancellation of many flights. The pilot shortage is impacting the services of the airline, sources said. The 13-month-old airline has reportedly sought about INR 22 crore as compensation from the 43 pilots for the loss of revenue and damaging reputation of the airline.
The mass exodus of pilots has forced the airline to cancel its several operations since August 2023. More than 10,000 passengers have been affected due to flight delays and cancellations in July and August forcing the airline to pay more than INR 1 crore as compensation.
"We have sought legal remedy only against a small set of pilots who abandoned their duties and left without serving their mandatory contractual notice period," an Akasa Air spokesperson said in a statement. The airline said the act was not only in violation of their contract but also the country's civil aviation regulations. "Not only is this illegal in law but also an unethical and selfish act that disrupted flights in August forcing last-minute cancellations that stranded thousands of customers causing significant inconvenience to the travelling public," it said.
According to sources, several Akasa Air pilots have joined Air India Express which operates Boeing 737 planes. These unaccounted exits possibly led to a pilot shortage, hitting the airline's overall performance which was otherwise scaling higher and the numbers are reflecting that pain.
Flight Operations Affected
After growing steadily for several months, Akasa Air's market share fell from 5.2% in July to 4.2% in August. Being the top on-time performer (OTP) for three consecutive months with a 90-plus ranking, Akasa Air's OTP took a hit in June falling to 87.6 and deteriorated further in August to 81.4. It appears that the pilot shortage worsened since July after which the airline suffered major delays beyond 2 hours and had to cancel flights mostly due to unavailability of cockpit crew.
Akasa Air, which currently has a fleet of 20 planes, started operations in August 2022. Akasa in August added the 20th aircraft to its fleet making the airline eligible to start international operations. Indian regulations require airlines to have at least 20 aircraft in their fleet to become eligible for international operations. As of August 2023, Akasa operated more than 900 weekly flights across 16 cities in the country.
Akasa Air, which currently has a fleet of 20 planes, started operations in August 2022. This year in June, the Mumbai-headquartered airline increased the salaries of pilots by up to 40%. As per a June report, Akasa Air announced that from July 2023, senior first officers will now start with a monthly salary of INR 3.40 lakh, while senior captains will earn INR 6.25 lakh. Earlier it was INR 2.75 lakh and INR 5.75 lakh, respectively.
In recent weeks, Pakistan International Airlines (PIA), the national carrier of Pakistan, has been at the center of speculation regarding its financial stability and the potential shutdown of its operations. However, the airline has categorically denied these claims, emphasizing that it continues to operate and meet its payment obligations both domestically and internationally.
Baseless Shutdown Speculations
Reports had suggested that PIA was facing insurmountable financial difficulties, leading to the grounding of several aircraft and the possibility of ceasing operations by September 15. PIA spokesperson Abdullah Hafeez Khan swiftly dismissed these reports as baseless, aiming to quell concerns and misunderstandings about the airline's status.
Ongoing Flight Operations and Financial Commitments
Khan reassured the public that PIA's flight operations remained active and that the airline was diligently fulfilling its most pressing financial commitments. This includes meeting both domestic and international payment obligations, a critical aspect of ensuring the airline's sustainability.
Employee Salaries and Service Continuity
Crucially, Khan emphasized that PIA was not only meeting its financial commitments but also ensuring that employee salaries were paid on time. This commitment to its workforce underscores PIA's dedication to maintaining its operational efficiency.
Robust Global Network and Adequate Fleet
Addressing concerns about the airline's capacity to continue serving its passengers, Khan highlighted that PIA boasted a robust global network and an adequate number of aircraft for both domestic and international flights. This assurance reflects the airline's determination to uphold its reputation as a reliable and efficient carrier.
Islamabad International Airport Seeks Private Sector Involvement
In a related development, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority (PCAA) has taken a proactive step towards enhancing airport management and services. The PCAA has initiated the pre-bidding process to outsource operations at Islamabad International Airport through a public-private partnership (PPP) model.
Private Sector Participation
The move to involve the private sector in airport management marks a significant shift in the way airports are operated in Pakistan. The decision aims to tap into private sector expertise and resources while retaining control over critical aspects of airport operations, such as navigational services and runway management, within the authority's purview.
Interested parties have been invited to participate in a pre-bid conference to discuss the outsourcing arrangement. This inclusive approach allows potential stakeholders to gain a deeper understanding of the proposed PPP model and its potential benefits for both the airport and passengers.
A Step Towards Improved Airport Services
The decision to outsource operations at Islamabad International Airport aligns with the broader goal of enhancing airport management and services in Pakistan. By introducing private sector participation, the government seeks to drive efficiency, innovation, and improved customer experiences at the country's airports.
While Pakistan International Airlines faces challenges, it has unequivocally denied reports of an imminent shutdown and continues to operate its flights while meeting financial obligations. Meanwhile, the Pakistan Civil Aviation Authority's move to involve the private sector in airport management signals a positive step towards improving airport services and ensuring a smoother travel experience for passengers at Islamabad International Airport.
With Inputs from Minute Mirror
Air France-KLM Group Poised for Major Wide-Body Aircraft Order to Modernize Aging Fleet
The Air France-KLM Group, one of Europe's leading airline conglomerates, is on the cusp of making a significant move to rejuvenate its ageing wide-body aircraft fleet. According to reports from The Air Current, the joint venture between France and the Netherlands is in the final stages of deliberation for a substantial order of 50 twin-aisle aircraft from aerospace giant’s Airbus and Boeing.
This decision comes as part of the group's strategic effort to replace its ageing Airbus A330 and Boeing 777-200ER fleets. With insiders suggesting that the decision could be reached as soon as the end of September 2023, this move could mark a pivotal moment in the history of Air France-KLM Group.
Air France-KLM Group, formed through the merger of Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in 2004, has a rich history of providing international and domestic air travel services. However, as the years have passed, the group's wide-body fleet, consisting mainly of Airbus A330 and Boeing 777-200ER aircraft, has aged, leading to increased operational costs and potentially affecting passenger comfort and safety.
In accordance with Air France-KLM's H1 2023 report, which was released in July 2023, the firm owns 540 aircraft, 521 of which were in active service as of June 30, 2023. "The average age of the aircraft in the operational fleet was 12.2 years, encompassing 12.5 years for the long-haul fleet, 12.9 years for the medium-haul fleet, 20.3 years for the cargo fleet, and 9.2 years for the regional fleet," according to the report.
To address these challenges, the group has been contemplating a significant fleet modernization plan, and it appears that the decision is imminent.
The Potential Order
The reported order for 50 twin-aisle aircraft signifies a substantial commitment to fleet modernization. This order aims to replace a portion of the ageing Airbus A330 and Boeing 777-200ER fleets, ensuring Air France-KLM Group remains competitive in the global aviation market.
"The fleet modernization will be expressed by the continued growth of the A350-900 fleet within Air France and that of the B787-10s at KLM," according to the H1 2023 report.
Why Replace Aging Aircraft?
Efficiency and Environmental Impact: Modern aircraft are typically more fuel-efficient and have lower carbon emissions. By replacing ageing planes with newer models, Air France-KLM Group can reduce its carbon footprint, aligning with the industry's sustainability goals.
Operating Costs: Newer aircraft often come with reduced maintenance and operational costs, improving the airline's overall profitability.
Passenger Experience: Modern planes are equipped with advanced technology and amenities, enhancing the passenger experience and attracting more travelers.
Consideration of Airbus and Boeing
The Air France-KLM Group's decision to consider both Airbus and Boeing for the potential order demonstrates the airline's intention to explore all available options to meet its fleet modernization goals. Both manufacturers offer a range of twin-aisle aircraft, each with unique features and capabilities.
Implications for Airbus and Boeing
The potential order could have significant implications for Airbus and Boeing, two of the world's largest aircraft manufacturers. Securing such a substantial order from a major airline group like Air France-KLM would not only boost their revenues but also reaffirm their positions in the competitive aviation industry.
Timeline for the Decision
According to sources familiar with the matter, the decision on this landmark order could be finalized by the end of September 2023. This timeline highlights the urgency and importance of the fleet modernization plan for the Air France-KLM Group.
The Air France-KLM Group's imminent decision to order 50 twin-aisle aircraft represents a strategic move to revamp its ageing wide-body fleet. By embracing modern, fuel-efficient, and passenger-friendly aircraft, the group aims to stay at the forefront of the aviation industry.
Whether Airbus or Boeing secures this substantial order, the impact on the aviation landscape will be significant, setting the stage for a new era in air travel for Air France-KLM and its passengers. As the decision date approaches, industry observers and aviation enthusiasts alike will be eagerly awaiting the announcement that could reshape the future of this iconic airline group.
With Inputs from The Air Current
In a significant development for KLM and its ground personnel, the airline has presented a final proposal for a new Collective Labor Agreement (CLA) to the ground unions. This proposal marks substantial progress for all ground colleagues and is poised to shape the future of labor relations within the company.
The response to KLM's final proposal has been a mixed bag among the various unions representing ground personnel. FNV and CNV, two prominent unions, have deemed the proposal as a successful negotiation outcome and are preparing to present it to their respective membership bases.
However, De Unie, NVLT, and VKP have taken a different stance, considering KLM's proposal as its final offer. These unions will now assess whether they can accept it as a negotiation result. The outcome of their deliberations will play a crucial role in determining the fate of this proposed agreement. KLM remains hopeful that this proposal will pave the way for an agreement with all five ground unions.
Key Highlights of the Final Proposal
The final proposal put forth by KLM encompasses several critical elements that could substantially impact the livelihoods of ground personnel:
Effective September 1, 2023: Ground personnel will see a wage increase of €135 gross per month, providing immediate financial relief.
Effective October 1, 2023: An impressive wage increase of 6% will come into effect, ensuring a substantial boost in income.
January 2024: As a bonus, a one-off payment of €500 will be disbursed to employees, offering a significant financial incentive.
July 2024: Another wage increase, this time by 3%, is slated to occur, further improving the financial well-being of KLM's ground workforce.
January 2025: Depending on inflation trends, a wage increase ranging from 0% to 2% will be implemented, ensuring that employee earnings keep pace with the cost of living.
Minimum Wage Increase
The proposal also includes a commitment to raising the minimum wage for KLM Ground Personnel to a level exceeding €16 an hour. This wage enhancement will be in effect throughout the term of the agreement, spanning from March 2, 2023, to February 28, 2025.
Employee Well-being Measures
To address concerns of employee workload and well-being, KLM is set to implement measures aimed at preventing employees from becoming overloaded. Additionally, the reintroduction of the temporary part-time pre-retirement scheme, commonly known as the "80-90-100 scheme," is on the horizon. This initiative is designed to enable employees engaged in physically demanding roles to retire earlier. The inclusion of a bridging allowance will further facilitate the transition to less physically demanding work, ensuring the well-being of employees throughout their careers.
Moving Towards a Harmonious Future
The road to reaching a collective labor agreement has been paved with negotiations, discussions, and compromises. KLM, in presenting this final proposal, demonstrates its commitment to addressing the concerns and needs of its ground personnel. As this proposal now rests in the hands of the unions and their members, the airline awaits the verdict on whether it will serve as a blueprint for a harmonious and productive future.
The Importance of Unity
The diversity in responses from the unions underscores the complexity of labor negotiations. Each union represents unique perspectives and priorities of its members. Yet, amidst the varying viewpoints, a common thread of betterment for the ground personnel emerges. Achieving unity among these different voices will be pivotal in securing a collective agreement that benefits all.
The Path Forward
As the proposal enters the hands of the unions and their members, a critical period of deliberation begins. The outcome of these discussions will shape the labor landscape at KLM for the foreseeable future.
It is important to recognize that finding common ground in labor negotiations is a delicate process. The interests of the company and its employees must be balanced to create a sustainable and equitable agreement. The proposal reflects a significant step towards achieving this balance, but the final decision rests with the unions and their members.
In the coming weeks, KLM and its ground unions will engage in further dialogue and negotiations. The hope is that, through constructive discussions and mutual understanding, a consensus can be reached that benefits all parties involved.
Ultimately, KLM and its ground personnel share a common goal: to create a workplace that is fair, prosperous, and supportive of its employees. The final proposal represents a substantial step towards realizing this vision, offering the potential for improved wages, greater job satisfaction, and enhanced well-being.
As the negotiation process unfolds, the world will watch with interest to see if KLM and its ground unions can bridge their differences and forge a collective labor agreement that sets a positive precedent for the aviation industry and serves as a model for labor relations in the modern workplace. The future of KLM's ground personnel and the airline itself may well be shaped by the decisions made in the coming weeks, marking a significant chapter in their shared journey.
With Inputs from KLM