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Last Updated: Monday, 23 August, 2004, 06:44 GMT 07:44 UK
Cheap flying option for Indians

By Sunil Raman
BBC correspondent in Bangalore

Skip that pizza dinner, fly someplace instead!

Air Deccan
Air Deccan plans to link large and small towns
Starting this week, early bird travellers can fly between India's metro cities for as little as 500 rupees ($11) plus taxes.

India's first low-cost airline, Air Deccan, will operate flights between Delhi, Bangalore and Bombay (Mumbai) next week.

It is the first of a series of new and cheap airlines in India, with several others planned over the next year.

Even state-owned Air India and Indian Airlines are planning cheap, subsidiary airlines aimed at budget travellers.

With competitive pricing, air travel could become almost as cheap as rail travel in India.

Deals and more deals

A year after Air Deccan began flying to small towns and cities in southern and western India, it has now decided to target travellers in India's major cities.

Starting with Delhi and Bombay the airline plans to link small cities like Lucknow, Ludhiana, Chandigarh, Jallandhar and Jaipur from October and then link the north-east of India.

Simultaneously, a dynamic pricing structure will come into play, based on which passengers will be offered fares in four blocks ranging from 500 and 1,000 rupees ($22) upwards.

The entire concept is based on the principle of the early bird catching the worm.

Capt Gopinath
What happens to the urban man with rural roots who wants to visit his native small town?
Captain Gopinath
However, even last minute flyers can avail of cheaper tickets, at a cost saving of 30% compared to the published fare for the sector.

This concept, though new to India, is popular the world over, particularly in Europe and the UK.

Low cost airlines like Ryan Air and Easy Jet have successfully captured a business and holiday traveller segment that caters to smaller towns and cities and flies out of airports located on the outskirts of these destinations.

No frills

Captain G R Gopinath, chairman of Air Deccan, says Air Deccan aims at bridging the gap between high-end and budget air travellers.

"What happens to the urban man with rural roots who wants to visit his native small town? What happens to the working woman who wants to visit her family who live far away from a metro?," he told the BBC.

The no-frills airline works like most low cost airlines in the world.

Flights can be booked through the Internet.

There are no in-flight services like other commercial airlines but one can buy sandwiches or a drink onboard.

The "low operating costs" mantra appears to run through the organisation.

Around 50 people staff its Bangalore headquarters, 4-5 people man the accounts office and as few as 15 people meet sales and marketing targets.

The airlines uses small ATR aircraft but with the introduction of Airbus flights on metro routes it hopes to entice more people to fly.

Chief revenue officer John Kuruvilla explains that a large number of people travel by air-conditioned classes on trains but they could never consider flying as an option because of high fares.

"Flying is within the reach of those people," he says.

Selling space

Expansion plans has led the airline to newer sources of revenue.

Space within and outside the aircraft is being made available for advertisements.

Media company NDTV and Sun Microsystems have already booked space while Samsung and oil giant Bharat Petroleum have evinced interest.

The runway is only getting hotter as more entrants are jet setting onto the same territory.

The Bangalore-based United Breweries group led by beer baron Vijay Mallya is preparing to enter the market next year.

Kingfisher Air is expected to launch its services by March next year.

India's state-owned carrier Air India has said it plans to launch a budget airline serving destinations in the Middle East and South East Asia in April next year, with a fleet of 14 specially-leased Boeing aircraft.


SEE ALSO:
Air India enters no-frills market
31 May 04  |  Business
Gulf gets first no-frills flights
29 Oct 03  |  Business
India gets first budget airline
25 Aug 03  |  Business


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