Low-Cost Airlines of India

Just the other day I was talking about why we should fly the big airlines. It was also discussed here.

And today Dvorak Uncensored points us to an article that appeared in the Guardian about low-cost carriers in India

“With eyes fixed to the clouds outside his window, Manoj Kumar is trying to fasten his seat belt. After a struggle, the shopkeeper from Delhi explains that flight DN661 to Bangalore is his first. “I have never flown before,” he says. “It is like being on a fairground ride.”

Until recently, air travel across India was only for businessmen and women, foreign tourists, and visits home from the country’s vast diaspora. Fares were prohibitively expensive and the middle class travelled on the British Raj’s most visible legacy: the railways.

But a booming economy, a congested and crumbling train network and the emergence of low-cost carriers similar to Ryanair have meant a slice of Indian society taking to the skies for the first time. With half-a-dozen airlines planning to launch in the next year, fares have tumbled – and more than a third of the seats will be filled with first-time flyers. Three years ago a return ticket from New Delhi, India’s capital, to Mumbai, the country’s financial hub, was fixed at 20,000 rupees (£250). Now travellers who book online can get Also, towns which used to be connected only by slow train services or potholed highways, have been linked by a series of airstrips unused since the end of the second world wara ticket for 450 rupees. Also, towns which used to be connected only by slow train services or potholed highways, have been linked by a series of airstrips unused since the end of the second world war.

Behind this transformation of the aviation sector is Captain GR Gopinath, a former army officer who ran a private helicopter business in the early 90s. “I used to fly over small towns and villages and saw satellite dishes and TV aerials pop up on all these tiny houses,” he said. “It told me that if people could afford to pay 5 rupees a day for television, then a new mindset was emerging. Rather than seeing India as a country with a billion people to be fed and subsidised, I saw 1 billion hungry consumers.”

It was an advert that convinced him India was ready for take off. “We ran an advert which showed a girl on an island with a caption that said: ‘If it’s on the map we will get you there.’ Then we kept on getting calls from people thinking we were an airline and wanting to book tickets. I realised then that India wanted to fly.”

In 24 months, Air Deccan has revolutionised Indian air travel. Last year it carried 1 million passengers, this year that figure will reach 4.4 million. With 35 destinations, the fleet is already stretched and the company has ordered a further 62 aircraft.

I don’t think India can redevelop and expand train service — and keep up with demand for domestic air travel at the same time. It seems obvious what the market wants.

2 Comments

  1. Manzoor Khan December 29, 2005

    Delhi to Bombay for 450 rupees? I guess you may need to get your figures right. The lowest base fair is 500 (excluding 221 PSF amount). And, you’d be lucky if you can find the ticket for 500 rupees – you need to book it months in advance.

    All said and done – Yes, Air Deccan has changed the market rule and made the air travel affordable beyond people’s imagination. And Capt. Gopinath believes that the air fares can further go down -:).

    Air Deccan made the full service airlines to introduce certain number of discounted tickets in several sectors. It also led to the emergence of other low cost carrier like Go Air and SpiceJet.

    With all this, we, the middle class Indians emerge as winners.

  2. Vijay Naidu September 21, 2006

    Dear Sir,
    I want to know whatis the fair cost to fly from Mumbai to Delhi in the month of october
    thanking u,
    waiting for ur reply,
    Vijay Naidu.

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