India Considers Lifting Ban on Airbus Superjumbos

India is considering lifting a ban on Airbus SAS A380s from flying into the country, a move that may help Emirates and Deutsche Lufthansa AG (LHA) to start services with the double-decker plane to the Asian nation.

“We’ve been looking at it and we’ve talked to the airlines and asked for comments from ground-handling and immigration,” Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said in New Delhi today. “We are waiting for their comments.”

The government banned commercial services with the world’s biggest passenger aircraft on concerns that travelers will desert state-run Air India Ltd. and other local airlines struggling with the region’s most-expensive fuel tariffs and a price war. Current rules prevent overseas airlines from flying aircraft bigger than the Boeing Co. (BA) 747 into the country.

Emirates, the biggest customer for the A380, and Deutsche Lufthansa have both said they would like to fly the superjumbos into the country. Airbus yesterday said it canceled orders for five A380s from Kingfisher Airlines Ltd. (KAIR), the only Indian carrier to order the superjumbo, after the operator grounded its fleet more than a year ago.

Emirates’s decision to deploy the A380 in the country would depend on passenger demand on a particular route and the ability of airports to handle the superjumbo, once the government decides on its policy, said a spokesman of the carrier, declining to be named citing company policy.

Attractive Market

Foreign airlines are attracted by the size of the opportunity in India. The country’s local passenger traffic may reach 107.2 million by 2016, making it the world’s fourth-largest domestic market, the International Air Transport Association said.

Carriers in India, one of the world’s fastest growing aviation markets, struggle as they face the region’s highest fuel bills and airport charges amid stiff competition.

Many airports across India, including in capital New Delhi and financial hub Mumbai, have undergone renovation and runway extensions that can accommodate the A380. The New Delhi airport added three gates specifically meant for the plane.

The Indian government is also planning to scrap a rule that requires local airlines to have 20 planes and five years of domestic operations to start overseas services, Singh said. Prime Minster Manmohan Singh’s cabinet may decide on the proposal by end of next month, he told reporters. The minister didn’t give a timeframe for allowing A380 flights.

Go Airlines India Pvt., which has 15 planes in its fleet, could benefit from the change in rules to start international operations. The move will also allow a proposed joint venture between Singapore Airlines Ltd. (SIA) and Tata Sons Ltd., and the India unit of Air Asia Bhd. (AIRA) to fly overseas without waiting to complete five years of operations. Both ventures plan to start services this year.

To contact the reporter on this story: Anurag Kotoky in New Delhi at akotoky@bloomberg.net

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at anandk@bloomberg.net

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