When Kingfisher Airlines began operating in India in 2005, it aimed to bring back the golden period of Indian aviation. Every new major route was celebrated with a glamorous event; every new aircraft order came with a carefully crafted announcement that fuelled public imagination. Much has been written about the rise and horrendous fall of the airline over the years. Today, we’ll look back at the carrier, focussing on the aircraft it flew.
Airbus A320 family
Kingfisher Airlines remained a loyal Airbus customer. In fact, no Boeing jet ever flew commercially for the airline. The carrier’s owner Vijay Mallya started with a modest fleet of four brand new A320-200 planes and deployed them on the competitive but highly profitable Delhi-Mumbai sector.
As the thirst for route expansion grew, the carrier’s A320s were joined by their cousins – the A319 and A321. In fact, for a brief period of time, Kingfisher Airlines was the only carrier in India that flew all three aircraft of the A320 family before Air India expanded its fleet in 2007.
Here’s the breakdown of the airline’s A320 family of aircraft:
- A320-200: 24
- A319-100: 4
- A321-200: 8
It’s worth noting that one of the four A319s in its fleet was a specially configured corporate jet. It was used by the airline’s owner United Breweries Group but was also offered for commercial use as a charter plane. The airline planned to use it to provide non-stop service to Europe and one-stop service to the US to high-end corporate travelers at around $4,500 to $5,000 an hour.
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Kingfisher Airline flew a total of 28 ATRs. According to planespotters.net, the airline’s ATR fleet was as follows:
- ATR 42: 2
- ATR 72: 26
The carrier used the ATRs as feeder aircraft to connect its four major hubs – Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, and Kolkata – to regional airports.
In 2005, a huge PR event was held in Dubai when Kingfisher placed a $350 million firm order for 20 ATR 72s. During the joint press conference held by ATR and Kingfisher, the airline promoted its “Elegance” cabin for ultimate passenger comfort. An excited Vijay Mallya said at the event,
“This aircraft will also feature a series of firsts in the Indian market including the IFE system which is a key differentiator for Kingfisher Airlines and puts us ahead of our competitors. These aircraft will allow us to develop our network and introduce new routes not previously served and we are excited to be bringing the Kingfisher Airlines experience to more cities throughout India.”
Of course, as the airline faced financial setbacks, its ATR fleet size also decreased over the years.
Kingfisher Airlines couldn’t wait to fly internationally. The Indian Government requires airlines to fly for at least five years before expanding internationally. The carrier cleverly bypassed this rule by acquiring the low-cost airline Air Deccan to reach the five-year mark.
Kingfisher again looked towards Airbus for its widebodies and eventually flew a fleet of five Airbus A330-200s to its international destinations. In its attempt at being the most glamorous airline in the country, Mallya paid close attention to the cabins of the A330s, fitting them out with bars just as Richard Branson did with Virgin Atlantic. Predictably, he generated huge publicity at the launch of its Delhi-London route, using the A330, with a star-studded event.
Mallya also ordered all the other Airbus widebodies – A340, A350, and A380. Unfortunately, owing to the carrier’s financial downfall, none of these flew for Kingfisher. Simple Flying has done detailed write-ups on what went wrong with Kingfisher Airlines and how its ambitions of becoming the only A380 operator in India never saw the light of the day.