Just what is going on at Mumbai airport? I ask because, yet again, Lufthansa appears to have lost out in its bid to launch A380 service to this major Indian city.
As we reported recently, Lufthansa was intending to launch A380 flights to Mumbai from the start of the winter timetable on October 26 (see news, September 1).
At the same time, Emirates would "downgrade" its existing A380 service to a more modest B777-300ER.
But in a change of tack, Mumbai appears to have reversed its decison. Emirates will now continue its daily A380 flight throughout the winter while Lufthansa will still operate its B747-400 on the route, reports the Times of India. When Business Traveller checked both airlines’ schedules we found the latter had been revised.
Why the change? Neither airline(s) nor airport will provide comment to UK media at the time of writing. But it appears the airport is favouring Emirates over Lufthansa.
In which case, this would be considered unprecedented as major international airports are not supposed to show any favouritism to foreign carriers.
And it's not the first time this has happened to Lufthansa at Mumbai. Earlier this summer, for example, Lufthansa announced it would upgrade its daily Mumbai flight from a B747-400 to a more modern B747-8.
But, at the last minute, Lufthansa was pipped to the post by Emirates, which annnounced it would bring in its A380 this summer.
This leaves two questions — why is there a problem at Mumbai? And why cannot Lufthansa or Emirates retime their A380 services so as not to clash?
The answer to question number one is because Mumbai has only a single gate capable of handling either an A380 or B747-8 (which has a wider wingspan than the B747-400). It will be a year before another A380/B747-8 gate becomes ready for use.
And secondly, Lufthansa and Emirates would not wish to retime their flights because they are prime connectors. Each flight to either Frankfurt or Dubai carries many passengers who are continuing on, say, to Europe or North America.
In addition, Luftansa must abide by Frankfurt's strict curfew which determines the time of day when its Indian flights can depart or arrive.
So while Lufthansa will indeed become the first European carrier to serve India with an A380, it will be to Delhi rather than Mumbai.
Emirates, meanwhile, will operate its superjumbo as flight EK500 from Dubai at 2155, arriving into Mumbai at 0215. It returns as EK501 at 0415, arriving back into Dubai at 0605.
Emirates has responded to Business Traveller's request for comment with this statement:
"Emirates can confirm that is has received approval from Mumbai International Airport to continue operating its A380 service between Dubai and Mumbai for the winter 2014 timetable. The A380 service will continue to operate as flight numbers EK500 and EK501.
"Since Emirates commenced A380 operations to Mumbai in July this year, the aircraft has been immensely popular with travellers flying to and from Mumbai with consistently high load factors. Emirates is pleased to be able to continue to serve its passengers on the route with its flagship aircraft."