Calling on India – dream unfolds! [Image source]
When the big bird, the A380 super duper, flew back to Toulouse yesterday from Mumbai, many hands bid it goodbye. Eyes followed as long as it could be seen in the sky before it melted away. Back to mundane, the question lingered on many lips: when are we going to see the flying palace in India.
Going by reports in the media, that won’t be before 2012, when the first of the giants are delivered to Vijay Mallya owned Kingfisher Airlines. A380’s order book is choc-a-bloc with those from who’s who of the world’s airline industry. Perhaps it is Singapore Airlines that’ll get the first deliveries, may be sometimes next year.
Okay, so what it is that prompted Airbus SAS, the French manufacturer of A380 to fly a strictly non-commercial flight all the way to Delhi and then to Mumbai? The answer is it was a purely marketing jaunt.
And guess what the company’s COO (Customer) has to say when talking about all-economy 850-seat version of the giant that is nearly 7-story high and whose pair of wings can easily span the width of a football field? Here it is (refer TT, May 9):
We have a hundred seats more than a Rajdhani, and an Airbus 380 uses up 25 percent less fuel than a normal passenger jet.
What this means is perhaps, just perhaps, the A380 fair, when it starts ferrying passengers between 2 metros like Kolkata and Delhi, may be less than the Rajdhani fair. Interesting, isn’t it?
But there’s more. Airbus’ famed rival, Boeing plans a 787 Dreamliner that promises to be nearly as big as A380, if not bigger. Boeing has larger plans for India. It is already in the process of locating a MRO hub in Nagpur (see my post, Is it Boeing?), and may be another near Kolkata.
If and when the big birds, the A380s and 787Ds circulate in Indian skies, will that mark the end of Rajdhanis, especially on high-density metro-to-metro routes? Nope, if you go by Indian Railway’s grand plans to reinvent its service.
IR is in the process of infusing a mind-boggling $15 billion over coming 5 years to build tracks and modernize stations. A sizeable portion of that amount will go to build the proposed freight corridors from Delhi to Mumbai and Kolkata. A fair sum will also be spent to make Rajdhani faster, cheaper, and more comfortable.
Which means by 2012 there is going to be a royal fight between the birds in the sky and coaches on the rail to attract and retain passengers. As always, competition brings out the best, and indeed that is good for us, the common people.