Why India’s Kingfisher Airlines Ordered The Airbus A380

Kingfisher Airlines had sky-high ambitions, and that included firm orders for 10 Airbus A380s. The airline planned to use these jumbo jets on its prominent international routes and offer a luxurious experience. While some questioned the logic of operating the A380 outside major hubs, Kingfisher pushed on with its plans. So here’s why Kingfisher ordered the A380.

Kingfisher A380
Kingfisher’s A380 was meant to be an ambitious plan to shake up and expand the Indian long-haul market. Photo: Airbus

Growth

From its order in 2005, many questioned why Kingfisher went for an aircraft like the jumbo, 525-seat Airbus A380. Most airlines ordering the jet were all major hub airlines like Emirates, Singapore Airlines, and more. The only non-hub airline then was Qantas, but the Australian flag carrier could comfortably support the capacity on major routes.

However, Kingfisher, and those supporting it, were banking on the growing Indian market as the key to the A380s success. While the carrier might have struggled to fill the jet at first, it would eventually have enough traffic to make it sustainable, one analyst noted at the time in Mint.

In effect, the decision to buy five A380s and then exercise five more options was a gamble by CEO Vijay Mallya, which could have easily gone either way.

Kingfisher A380 Vijay Mallya
Buying the A380 was a big gamble for Kingfisher, one that it never got to see through. Photo: Airbus

While nothing had been firmed up at the time, Kingfisher planned to fly the A380 on long-haul routes. This included destinations in the US and possibly high-density routes to cities like London. In a statement to Airbus at the time of the order, CEO Vijay Mallya said,

“India is one of the world’s fastest-growing markets, especially among the younger emerging generation, and these new Airbus aircraft, with their unmatched passenger appeal, economy and commonality, will give us the lead in competing for their business … when we become the first Indian carrier with the 21st Century flagship A380, before adding the world’s newest airliner, the A350. Imagine flying the good times, not just in India, but worldwide!”

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Never came through

Kingfisher had long wanted to go international but could not due to government rules requiring airlines to fly for five years and have 20 planes. The carrier sidestepped this rule by acquiring another airline, Air Deccan, and reaching the five-year mark.

When Kingfisher prepared to start international flights in 2008, it upped its A380 order to 10 jets and asked Airbus to move up delivery from 2011-12 to the end of 2009.

However, Airbus never got the chance to deliver the A380s to Kingfisher. When delivery time came, the airline cited weak finances and could not take any of the superjumbos. The order was eventually canceled when Kingfisher went bankrupt in 2012.

A380 India Kingfisher
Despite all the talk and orders for large planes, Kingfisher only operated the A320 and A330 during its time. Photo: Airbus

It would have been interesting to see how the A380 played out for Kingfisher and if it would have been sustainable. However, bad management meant the airline never got to take delivery of its vast order book and fly what could have been one of the most luxurious A380s.

Did the A380 ever have a chance of being a reality for Kingfisher? Did you ever fly with Kingfisher? Let us know in the comments!

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