Newsletter #9

This Regulator!

The government may wax eloquent about reforms in aviation, but if it seeks true change it should start with reforming the regulator, DGCA. As is well known, DGCA faces a severe manpower shortage and most of those on the rolls are clueless about aviation or simply arrogant, inept or corrupt.  

This week, all those unflattering attributes again came to the fore when a senior officer took umbrage at a bunch of pilots getting his designation wrong in a letter written by them. Next we heard that the officer slapped a pilot after summoning him to office.  

Things took an even more bizarre turn when 34 pilots were picked up for questioning by cops for posting obscene messages about the officer in their WhatsApp group after the DGCA complained to the cops. The matter was resolved only when the parents of the pilots approached the cops and apologised on their behalf.  

The pilot association has sought action against the officer for harassment. Ah, Indian aviation never ceases to surprise.

How Things Change...

Not long ago, the Gulf carriers could do no wrong in aviation. That now looks a distant memory.  

Ebit margins at Middle Eastern carriers will drop to their lowest level in six years during 2017, according to IATA. That makes the region the least-profitable worldwide.

In contrast, the Bloomberg World Airlines Index, whose members have been at the receiving end of Gulf rivals, has risen 24% in a year.  

This is due to a confluence of recent events. This week,  Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates banned flights and ended maritime links with Qatar. This followed the US ban on laptops in the cabins of flights from the Middle East.

Not Jumbo Enough  

The A380 is a massive plane, right? Well, Airbus thinks it can be made ‘bigger’.

Airbus is looking to remove the upper deck exit door on the plane as part of measures to increase the seat count in the model. Airbus believes removing the door can help it squeeze in as many as eight seats.  

The move is probably a result of demand from its customers. Airlines are increasingly squeezing more seats into their planes to accommodate more passengers.

Biz Jet Funk

The slump in business jets sales will continue for two more years, according to a new forecast. The reason is simple: a glut of planes. 

The number of business aircraft today has doubled to 21,817 in 14 years. But incredibly they fly nearly the same 4.3-million missions a year as they did in 2003.  It should not then surprise that the annual utilization per aircraft at over 350 hours is about one-tenth that of commercial jetliners, according to the report by aviation consultant Rolland Vincent.

Let's Pray At The Airport  

We’ve seen the evolution of airports from boring edifices to sweeping, swank structures that give malls and art galleries a run for their money. What next? 

The airport of the future will be one giant city, packed with the conveniences and cultural offerings one would find in a traditional metropolis. To cite one example, the prayer rooms one finds now will evolve into a chapel or a temple. 

This is inevitable for two reasons. One, the sheer increase in traffic: the number of people flying is  projected to reach 7.3 billion by 2034. That is six Indias. Two, with revenues from parking and baggage fees due to fall, airports and airlines need to find new avenues to generate money.   

Weekly Roundup 

GMR wins bid for Heraklion Airport in Crete, Greece.  

The government launches an initiative named DigiYatra that aims to bring together the entire travel industry to develop a digital ecosystem that will deliver Indian customers a seamless, consistent and paperless service experience at every part of their journey. 

Travellers may soon have to provide a ID like passport, PAN card or Aadhaar when booking flights tickets.