DN - Defence Notes

Jet Airways and Kingfisher fly wing-to-wing

16th October 2008 - 00:00 GMT | by The Shephard News Team

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TWO of India’s most go-ahead and pro-IFE/connectivity airlines have decided to work together to combat the latest round of crises assailing the global air transport industry.

Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines have teamed in pursuit of cost reductions, revenue improvements and network development. Explaining the move, Kingfisher boss Vijay Mallya said: “Over the past six months the Indian aviation Industry has suffered from high fuel prices, back-breaking taxation, excessive airport charges and over-capacity. Recognising the benefits that strong alliances bring, I am delighted to announce our partnership with Jet Airways.”

The carriers plan to rationalise their operations in a number of areas, including code-sharing on both domestic and international flights, interline agreements to maximise returns from joint assets currently totalling 189 aircraft operating 927 domestic and 82 international flights daily, collaborative fuel purchasing and hedging, common ground handling, cross-utilisation and training of crew and maintenance staff on similar aircraft types, and frequent-flier scheme reciprocity.

The partners will retain their separate brands and ownership and will not exchange investments. But they are looking at co-branding possibilities, and all of the co-operative activities will be led by a core team of managers headed by Mallya and Jet Airways chairman Naresh Goyal.

It remains to be seen whether the tie-up will have any effect on the two airlines’ already impressive IFE and connectivity activities. Jet Airways is installing Panasonic’s eFX in its Boeing 737s and eX2 in its Boeing 777-300ERs and Airbus A330-200s. Kingfisher’s exceptional IFE offering includes live TV and audio/video-on-demand at every seat on domestic routes.

Jet Airways uses Inmarsat’s Classic Aero satcoms system to support in-seat voice and data for text messaging, email and live text news at up to 9.6kbit/sec in its Airbus A330-200s.

Kingfisher announced earlier this year that it had selected Honeywell to supply the Inmarsat satcoms equipment that will support the OnAir communications services that it plans to offer passengers from later this year.

The airline has ordered Honeywell’s MCS-7200 terminal for installation in the new Airbus A330s and A340s that has begun to receive. The system can support up to six voice channels and four Swift 64 64kbit/sec channels or two 432kbit/sec SwiftBroadband channels. It will be used to deliver OnAir’s Webmail and Webchat services this year, with Internet access and onboard mobile phone to follow next year.

Passengers will pay for Webmail and Webchat on a per-flight basis, and for Internet access per kilobyte of data downloaded. Mobile phone users will incur costs similar to international roaming rates and will be billed by their usual mobile operators.

OnAir’s Internet service will allow users to access the Internet and private networks from wired or wireless laptops, BlackBerry-type devices or the seatback IFE system. The Webmail service will give access to existing Web-based email accounts, allowing users to preview the contents of inboxes at no charge before purchasing the service. Webchat will support personal instant messaging via existing AIM (AOL), ICQ, MSN Messenger/Windows Live Messenger and Yahoo! Messenger accounts.

Kingfisher’s primary IFE vendor is Thales Avionics, which has supplied systems for the A320-family aircraft, A330s and A340s that the airline has in service or on order. Various configurations of TopSeries i-3000 and i-4000 have been selected for 54 A320-family aircraft, and i-5000 with inflight television capability is earmarked for five A330s and five A340s.

The carrier is also installing broadcast IFE in its ATR 72-500 regional turboprop fleet. The hardware is a DVD-based system from French supplier Vision Systems, which specialises mainly in cabin interiors, video systems for passenger displays and other functions, windows and cockpit sun visors.      

Kingfisher has ordered a total of 35 ATR 72s and plans to fit them all with the system. The ATRs are used to fly from Indian secondary cities to the country’s main hubs at Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Bangalore, and to feed Kingfisher’s current main fleet of Airbus A320-family aircraft. Thales TopSeries is fitted to these aircraft and will also be acquired for the 30 new A320s that the carrier has on order.

The ATR installation comprises 17 colour LCD drop-down screens mounted along with loudspeakers for audio in the cabin overhead, a head-end unit to handle CDs and DVDs, and a crew control panel. The screens measure 12.7cm by 9.3cm, weigh 0.2kg each and are spaced every two or three seat rows along both sides of the cabin.

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