After several years of demands by some major foreign carriers, Civil Aviation Ministry on Monday approved the operations of Airbus A-380s in India at four airports currently equipped to handle these super jumbos.
The restrictions on the fully double-decker planes were lifted after weeks of consultation between Directorate General of Civil Aviation, Air India and Airports Authority of India.
An A-380 can seat 850 passengers in an all-economy configuration, but those having a three-class configuration can accommodate between 550-600 passengers.
The operations of the A-380s would be subject to overall traffic entitlements within the bilateral Air Service Agreements (ASAs) with different countries, an official spokesperson said.
Singapore Airlines, Emirates and Lufthansa have been pressing the government for several years to allow them fly these super jumbos into India.
The A-380s would now be allowed to airports at Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad and Bangalore, which are equipped to handle them and have the required infrastructure.
It has also been decided that wherever the entitlements were not expressed in terms of seats per week, these would be rationalised and converted into seats per week before allowing A-380 operations to India from these countries. This exercise would be carried through mutual negotiations between India and other countries through Memorandums of Understanding, the spokesperson said.
The ASAs, which specifically prohibit A-380 operations to India, would be amended before the operations of these airplanes from any country are allowed.
All the four airports would also have to get DGCA certification and make adequate preparation in terms of various services required, he added.
Nine of the 10 international airlines that currently fly the A-380s have scheduled flights into India. There are over 110 A-380s currently flying worldwide.
Issues like clogging of airport facilities like baggage handling and speedy immigration and clearance for over 500 passengers when these wide-body and twin-aisled long-haul jets land or take-off were analysed and decisions to overcome them were taken by a group of officials, led by then Civil Aviation Secretary K N Srivastava, in December last year.
The crowding at immigration, baggage clearance and customs could lead to clogging of the existing facilities which could make it difficult to handle the passengers disembarking from other flights at the same time.
Official sources said the thinking was to allow the landings of these aircraft at a time when there are lesser number of flights operating from an airport. The time slots at airports having large terminals and parking space would have to be decided to enable the super jumbos to land and park.
Earlier, the government had refused to allow the A-380s maintaining that these massive aircraft would see foreign airlines take away a large chunk of international traffic and therefore could be detrimental to the interests of Indian carriers.
The foreign carriers had been seeking permission to fly these planes since 2008-09.
The largest aircraft type mentioned in many of the ASAs are the Boeing 747s, which would need to be amended, the sources said.
A review of this decision came after the DGCA conducted a study showed that the operations of the A-380 would not adversely affect operations of Indian carriers.
The A-380s have already made debut flights to Delhi, Mumbai and at the airshows in Hyderabad. A few years ago, an A-380 had even made an emergency landing at Hyderabad on its way from Australia.