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Regional Jets & India - an untapped potential

 
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ameya
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 10:49 am    Post subject: Regional Jets & India - an untapped potential Reply with quote

A two part series I wrote on untapped potential for regional jets in INdia

Regional Jets & India – an untapped opportunity: Part 1 – covers concept, history, mission and fitment

Regional Jets & India – an untapped opportunity: Part 2 – covers Regional Jets in India, Routes where regional jets will work wonders in India, Challenges & future

Which is the longest flight in India? It is Port Blair – Delhi operated by Air India Regional 4 times a week covering approximately 2480 kms in 3 hours and 20 minutes. In a country dominated by A320s and B737s, the longest flight is operated by a Regional Jet – the CRJ700, 4 of which are part of Air India’s fleet. A regional jet is perfect for long thin routes like Delhi – Port Blair – Delhi but it is ironic that less than 1% of total civil aviation fleet in India comprises Regional jets. With over 425 aircraft in operation in India, only 8 are regional jets. 4 CRJ700s operated by Air India Regional and 4 E-jets operated by Air Costa.

Due to lack of interest from airlines towards the CRJ series and the Bombardier C series still in infancy, this article considers the Embraer family wherever relevant. The article does not consider E2 series for the same reason like the Bombardier C series.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 6:26 pm    Post subject: Re: Regional Jets & India - an untapped potential Reply with quote

ameya wrote:
Regional Jets & India – an untapped opportunity: Part 1 – covers concept, history, mission and fitment

Regional Jets & India – an untapped opportunity: Part 2 – covers Regional Jets in India, Routes where regional jets will work wonders in India, Challenges & future


Sir, `fascinating' would be an understatement. Before I have my usual uninformed queries, and requests for information, please accept my heartiest appreciation for an extremely well-written article, well split into two logically separate parts.

Part 1:
Very nice history of RJs, with informative comments. Especially nice for laypersons like me: the Dream)liner logic applied to the RJs drove the point home for me. Also interesting was the approximate ballpark performance figures comparing an A320 and a B737 for a 1200km jaunt in India: an A320 seems to do marginally better, with lower cost-per-seat and cost-per-trip.

Part 2:
I feel a bit uneasy over trading frequency for capacity because unlike in the US, where long and thin routes with requisite demand are aplenty, India has very few of them to sustain a decent fleet of RJs. If the fleet size is small, the spares inventory will be commensurate, and we will see frequent AOGs. Air India Regional 9I has possibly had the best fleet planning with routes almost tailor-made for the CR7. DEL-BBI-IXZ, STV, BDQ, GAU, JLR, among the routes served by the CR7 in the past. Long and thin routes, attractive pricing, very good loads, fair cargo traffic suitable for a CR7 are all the positives. The negatives are the AI overheads of antiquated procurement and supply norms and procedures, a small spares inventory with slow procedures adding to the misery, limited market, hence even more limited set of cabin crew (and, Mx and cabin crew as well), to almost balance out the gains from and excellent route planning team.
Does India have the city pairs which can support multiple RJ frequncies? Among those you mentioned: PAT perhaps, DIB perhaps, but currently, the Tier 2 cities and below have hardly the capacity to graduate from a 70-odd seater fuel-efficient turboprop, to a slight guzzling RJ.
While Fly Easy in your opinion, has the right strategy to go head on, on hitherto one-stop routes, I am a bit uneasy about the total number of such feasible routes. Even a decade from now, somehow I am more comfortable imagining more 70-odd seater turboprops with multiple frequencies, rather than the thirstier RJs.
Of course, you have the numbers, and insider knowledge of the ops much better than an armchair enthusiast like me!
Thank you once again, for a fascinating read, and the joy of thinking about this topic!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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ameya
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 6:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thank you sir for your kind words as always!

Yes, the A320 does do marginally better but things would change from route to route and airline to airline along with what is the leasing cost, finance cost, purchase cost, etc and if the maintenance is handled inhouse or outsourced or part of leasing deal. These many complexities make it very hard to have an apple to apple comparison between any two or more aircraft.
The A320 will become more competitive with the 186 / 189 seater versions post NEO

The capacity vs frequency argument comes into picture when you are plying RJ on some route and suddenly 180 seater aircraft comes in, then to counter them you start another frequency. If the market is being killed, you should be the winner and with two frequencies you have a better chance. In all likelihood, 180 seater player will not add another frequency.
I agree with you on the CR7 planning, but the CR7 are an older generation and still gas guzzlers as compared to the newer set of RJs

I did some research, if not extensive and realized that there quite a few cities where one can have multiple frequencies and the stage length is such that the turbo props cannot attain. With costs lower than A320s, a 1:15 hour turboprop flight will be 0:50 or 0:45 on RJ and will have better trip cost than A320s / B737s

Thank you again, this was one topic on which I wanted to write for a long time. Got delayed since I took sometime to research and collate data
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 7:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ameya wrote:
...These many complexities make it very hard to have an apple to apple comparison between any two or more aircraft.
Sure Sir, that is why I used the term `approximate ballpark' performance figures. A ballpark figure is what a layperson like me looks forward to. It helps me see the forest without the details of the trees.
ameya wrote:
The A320 will become more competitive with the 186 / 189 seater versions post NEO
Sure Sir, we all look forward to that. Right now, as Yatrik commented, most of the NEO pictures seem to depit the `No Engine Option' Smile
ameya wrote:
The capacity vs frequency argument comes into picture when you are plying RJ on some route and suddenly 180 seater aircraft comes in, then to counter them you start another frequency. If the market is being killed, you should be the winner and with two frequencies you have a better chance. In all likelihood, 180 seater player will not add another frequency.
Correct Sir, but with my limited knowledge, I do not see too many such markets in India. Which again leads to the chicken-and-egg argument which I put above, on the number of RJ aircraft.
ameya wrote:
I agree with you on the CR7 planning, but the CR7 are an older generation and still gas guzzlers as compared to the newer set of RJs
You would be right Sir, my thoughts are still coloured by some of the AI Regional operating figures. Yes, these CR7s are quite old birds.
ameya wrote:
I did some research, if not extensive and realized that there quite a few cities where one can have multiple frequencies and the stage length is such that the turbo props cannot attain. With costs lower than A320s, a 1:15 hour turboprop flight will be 0:50 or 0:45 on RJ and will have better trip cost than A320s / B737s
Sir, will it be proper to request you to write a Part 3 describing these city pairs as well? At least, for the biased and uninitiated like me? It would be an eye-opener for me, at least. Again, my thoughts are a bit coloured and biased by the AI-R experience with the CR7s, the AT4-3s and the excitement with the AT7-6s, from the inputs I got from some contacts. Hence, I look forward to an independent and well-researched opinion: YOURS!
ameya wrote:
this was one topic on which I wanted to write for a long time. Got delayed since I took sometime to research and collate data
Come on Sir...such gems make the day of any aviation enthusiast!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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ameya
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 8:08 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Part - 3 ... probably not!

I would rather wait for more data to be in public domain before writing a part 3.

Part 2 does give some routes from major metros including current non stop and one stop frequencies so that pretty much covers a subset of your question as of now.

Your argument on number of RJs is very valid, but with a lower trip cost there is a slight advantage even on regular routes and not just thin long routes. However the challenge is capacity dumping by large carriers who may want to sustain with deeper pockets in the initial days.

CR7s have been utilized extensively and at times on wrong routes. Lets take JLR for eg. Doable on both the ATRs 42 /72 and the CR7. The costing would change significantly on the ATRs as compared to CRJs but the people would prefer CRJ because of its speed.
Now if we add another player who has B737/A320 ops to JLR from DEL, the ATR may not find favor amongst people but a CRJ will due to the timing advantage.

With CRJ - one can offer double daily flights and deploy 140 seats in the market at good timings, where as A320 can deploy 180 seats once a day, if that goes double daily - you have a huge excess of seats which are hard to fill and if you do they are at trash yields.

There is more to this, when the market matures and you want two 180 seaters, why not provide 4 80 seaters and spread the capacity split between O-D traffic and connecting traffic and again play distributed capacity game.

Yes the challenge here is slots at DEL which one needs to overcome to play the above game !
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 8:40 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Sir, nice points!
Cheers, Sumantra.
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Nimish
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PostPosted: Mon Oct 26, 2015 10:54 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Great articles Ameya. What would also be of interest is comparing the ATR (which India has plenty of) to RJs in the context of 1200 kms type flights. Until domestic airlines are ready to start RJs, won't the turbo props be a good starting point to long/ thin routes and not just regional (30-60 mins) sectors? Say add a distance & time column to the "sector chart" comparing time taken on RJ vs. ATR for the distance of the route? Clearly routes like BLR-GAU might be too long, but perhaps there are many routes in that table, where an ATR can work out.
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 9:18 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nimish wrote:
What would also be of interest is comparing the ATR (which India has plenty of) to RJs in the context of 1200 kms type flights.
I think we have discussed this before. Take JLR for instance, with 9I (Air India Regional/Alliance Air). An AT4 flight has a block time of 2 hours, and a CR7 flight, 01:20 hours. For the SG flight, though the block time is usually 02:05 hours, it is of course, between the AT4 and the CR7, this being a faster turboprop. SG inflate some block times to get better OTP figures, since their rotations with the Q4 are too tight for comfort.
I also remember Ameya pointing out that the longest ATR flight was perhaps one on IT (DEL-IDR?) with a 02:15 hour block time. AT7-5.
An AT7-5/6 is perhaps best suited for these routes in terms of economy, when people in Tier-2/3 cities will typically not bother too much about reaching half-an-hour early, as long as they can get a ticket at a good price. These are low-to-medium yield medium density routes. The airline might want to get another rotation in (as Ameya pointed out), something which is true for JLR and SG, for instance.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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ameya
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:11 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Nimish - Thanks!

There may be some value add to compare these with ATR/Q400s certainly. But for the longer routes the ATRs are completely ruled out besides the CASK becomes higher than normal for any aircraft when it is doing a mission which is closer to its max range (Probably true from B772LR to ATR) thus making ATR not so favorable.

BLR- IXR /PAT/IDR/GAU/IXB are routes which cannot be flown by ATR due to the distance.
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ameya
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 2:14 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

sumantra wrote:
Nimish wrote:
What would also be of interest is comparing the ATR (which India has plenty of) to RJs in the context of 1200 kms type flights.
I think we have discussed this before. Take JLR for instance, with 9I (Air India Regional/Alliance Air). An AT4 flight has a block time of 2 hours, and a CR7 flight, 01:20 hours. For the SG flight, though the block time is usually 02:05 hours, it is of course, between the AT4 and the CR7, this being a faster turboprop. SG inflate some block times to get better OTP figures, since their rotations with the Q4 are too tight for comfort.
I also remember Ameya pointing out that the longest ATR flight was perhaps one on IT (DEL-IDR?) with a 02:15 hour block time. AT7-5.
An AT7-5/6 is perhaps best suited for these routes in terms of economy, when people in Tier-2/3 cities will typically not bother too much about reaching half-an-hour early, as long as they can get a ticket at a good price. These are low-to-medium yield medium density routes. The airline might want to get another rotation in (as Ameya pointed out), something which is true for JLR and SG, for instance.
Cheers, Sumantra.


Thanks Sir!

I think the longest ATR flight will now be DEL-RAJ, something like 2:30 / 2:35 each way. A route which certainly will be done by RJs in 1:45/1:50
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sumantra
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PostPosted: Tue Oct 27, 2015 4:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

ameya wrote:
I think the longest ATR flight will now be DEL-RAJ, something like 2:30 / 2:35 each way. A route which certainly will be done by RJs in 1:45/1:50
Thanks, Sir: I had forgotten about this lo...ng one! Personally, I would love to do this on 9I's new AT7-6s.
Cheers, Sumantra.
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