India lifts ban on Airbus A380s, foreign carriers interested

NEW DELHI Mon Jan 27, 2014 4:12pm IST

An A380 Airbus arrives on the tarmac during the Airbus annual press conference in Colomiers, near Toulouse, January 13, 2014. REUTERS/Regis Duvignau

An A380 Airbus arrives on the tarmac during the Airbus annual press conference in Colomiers, near Toulouse, January 13, 2014.

Credit: Reuters/Regis Duvignau

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NEW DELHI (Reuters) - India lifted a landing ban on Airbus(AIR.PA) A380s on Monday, enabling carriers such as Singapore Airlines(SIAL.SI) and EmiratesEMIRA.UL to fly their superjumbos into the world's second-most populous nation.

A380s will be allowed to land at the country's four main airports - New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Hyderabad - which are equipped to handle the planes, a decision welcomed by foreign carriers looking to tap India's fast growing air travel sector.

"The operation of A380s will help airports to generate more revenue, give more comfortable and luxurious travel to passengers, (and will) liberalise the civil aviation milieu in India," the civil aviation ministry said in a statement.

The ban on A380s was imposed due to concerns that foreign airlines could grab a high share of international traffic, hurting state-run Air India AIN.UL.

Air India could not be reached for comment.

The A380 can carry more than 800 passengers in a single-class configuration and more than 500 passengers in a three-class set up.

The aviation ministry said Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) had all expressed an interest in operating A380s in India on various international routes.

"We will be reviewing our existing operations, and look forward to serving Indian travellers with our flagship aircraft in the near future," an Emirates spokesman said, adding a decision would depend on passenger demand.

A Lufthansa spokesman said the carrier would look at the possibility using A380s on flights to India, but had no plan at the moment. Germany's largest airline has 10 A380s.

Singapore Airlines, which is setting up a full-service carrier in India in a joint venture with Tata Group, said it would consider flying A380s into India.

The rule change will also benefit British Airways BAYpref.LU that operates the superjumbo and flies to India, as well as A380 customers like Etihad and Qatar Airways who have yet to take delivery of the aircraft.

Etihad last year bought a 24 percent stake in India's Jet Airways (JET.NS) and the two carriers are expanding flights.

BIG PLANES

Rising income levels are seeing more Indians fly in the country of 1.25 billion. India's overall passenger traffic is expected to triple to 452 million by 2020.

India has consulted ground handling and immigration officials before changing the laws on the A380, Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said this month.

His ministry said Monday's decision was taken after consulting the aviation regulator, Air India and the state-run airport operator Airports Authority of India.

The state-run airport operator manages 125 airports in the country. The four airports equipped to handle A380s are managed by private sector companies.

Amber Dubey, head of aerospace and defence at KPMG's Indian unit, said the A380s would help bring down fares and improve the competitiveness of Indian tourism sector, adding it would also boost the efficiency of airports.

None of the Indian carriers have A380s on order. Airbus recently said it cancelled A380s ordered by grounded Kingfisher Airlines (KING.NS).

(Additional reporting by Praveen Menon in Dubai, Victoria Bryan in Frankfurt and Anshuman Daga in Singapore; Editing by Jeremy Laurence)

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