2018 looks like it will be a big year for the travel industry. A lot of things are happening in this ever-changing industry, and I just thought I’d write down a few things I expect to see this year in the newspapers before the year becomes too old! So let’s go with my Predictions 2018!
Jet Airways unveils new products on their new B737-8 MAX planes
Jet Airways has been operating the same hard product on their planes for years now. Every time I get on one of their short-haul 737s, I see a very tired product in the back of the plane in Economy, while there is an unpredictable Business Class (cloth or leatherette, with a footboard or without, so many options).
They are due to start inducting the Boeing 737-8 MAX airplanes this year, of which they have 75 on order, and they are looking at another 75. The first batch is almost entirely supposed to replace the old planes, and I sincerely hope the airline is looking to do more than what they currently do, given they have a much smaller competitor winning all the praise for good customer experience. Although you do have to give them credit where its due: they have IFE for domestic passengers, which is a first!
GoAir is going International
For an airline which has 12 years under their belt, I can’t understand what took them so long to go abroad. They make a profit courtesy the frequencies they have on trunk routes such as Mumbai – Delhi. They finally started to expand again last year, but that does not mean their customer experience is getting any better.
They were supposed to be flying abroad last year. We also knew they had slots at the Maldives and they have permission from the DGCA to fly to various places such as Iran. Let’s hope they finally turn the page and start those international flights.
Vistara places order for long-haul international flights
Vistara is only three years old. In fact, they will celebrate their third birthday in the coming week ahead. We already know that they will start international operations this year. I expect their first flight abroad to go to one of the following places: Singapore/Dubai/Bangkok/Colombo and I would believe they will go to all these destinations in the years ahead, with their current A320/neo fleet.
However, their plans to fly long-haul are still unclear. I’m sure they are currently assessing or have already made up their mind on Boeing v/s Airbus and B777 v/s A330 v/s A350 v/s B787. It isn’t a done deal for sure that they will buy from Airbus since they are an existing Airbus customer. Waiting for this one to roll out for sure!
Air India has a new owner
From what I’ve heard on the Air India sale process, the only thing I know is no one has a clue yet of when it will be sold. As someone with experience in M&A, I can assure you that these things go on for a long while before they finally close. So, I’d chuckled when last year the government had hoped that by the end of March 2018, they would be able to close the sale of Air India.
Air India is a complex being: 2 airlines (Air India and Indian Airlines) rolled into one, with different hierarchies and fleets and broken planes, not very professional ground ops (why do I see someone or the other yelling at them every time I am at the airport!?). They have a goldmine of being a Star Alliance member, anyways.
Much confusion is out there on how much is the government actually willing to concede to make this sale happen. The debt they owe is humungous, and I’m sure so are the other liabilities such as pensions and retirals. The Government does not want to break them up for sale.
So far, many people have turned up asking for a slice of the airline, such as IndiGo for international operations, but no one has raised their hand to say they will take it all. And it would take a lot of courage to take on an airline which is so messed up since it will take months and years to sort it all out! I’ve worked in a Government-owned company, so I know a bit of how these things work!
Let’s see how many airlines participate in the data room and come out and say, we still want to do this.
Airbus gets a new order for the A380
I almost admire how Airbus came from nowhere and is now a significant player in the aviation industry. However, one of their best airplanes hasn’t found many takers yet. The Airbus A380 is a marvel which I wonder how does this thing fly everytime I am on it. But, but, but, apart from Emirates, no one shares the enthusiasm.
Airbus needs more orders to keep the A380 assembly line open, and Emirates wants a commitment that the line will be open for a decade, order or no order. This is a stalemate, and there is a second-hand market which hasn’t even started to show up. We’ll see where this goes, but I’d like to back Airbus on this one.
Wifi now available on Indian airplanes
Trust me, we have our own archaic concerns in a world where planes are going supersonic again. India is one of the only two countries in the world, from what I remember, where internet on a plane can be used in a detrimental way.
While I don’t really think domestic airlines are dying to put the Internet on planes or the price is going to be cheap to start with, I do know at least one or two airlines will go for it as the government clears the way for this. Oh, on that note, these notifications had to come like a year ago, so don’t worry if this does not happen in the coming year as well.
Indian citizens Immigration made easy
I almost consider it a marvel that a billion Aadhar cards have been issued. And then I wonder why the hell are these not being used the right way when I have to wait at an airport for a minimum of twenty minutes to leave or come back to India (Business or Economy both!)
Most places I’ve been to, I see local citizens being let in or out of the country on the basis of an automated check (Iris scan for the Netherlands, Smart Cards for UAE and Singapore, Global Entry for the Americans), and here we are, in 2018, still having to make small talk with the immigration officer to be on our way. Shall we put that Aadhar to a real use, maybe?
Jet Airways gets invited to a real alliance: SkyTeam
It is the writing on the wall that Mr Goyal is trying to evade, or is perhaps playing hide and seek with. Jet Airways is already a part of the alliance with Etihad, which was built on the back of their equity investments in Jet Airways and JetPrivilege. However, Etihad is in a flux right now and some of their investments have gone bust.
I don’t expect Jet Airways to leave Etihad Airways Partners, but I do expect them to join a real alliance, such as SkyTeam. Else how will they provide parity to Jet loyalists who will transfer onwards from their gateways in Europe to the USA with their new partnership with KLM/AF and Delta/Virgin Atlantic? Oh, and while is on, maybe they get an equity investment from Delta/KLM-AF as well.
Those are the 8 headlines I am hoping to see in the press in the next 360 days or so. I’m not sure what to make of SpiceJet’s plan to buy seaplanes yet. We’ll see about that.
What are the headlines you’d be most interested in seeing on Aviation and Travel in 2018?