If we thought air travel could not get any cheaper
without towing the plane with a train engine, we
were wrong. Air fares will come down further and
we are going to benefit. Wait till
April-September, when three new winged beauties
take to the sky -- Royal Airways, Kingfisher
Airlines and GO Airlines. It is expected that the
entry of the new carriers will hammer down
airfares by about 15%.
Kingfisher Airways is already revving for a
takeoff. Its operations are expected to start in
April, with fares which are expected to be mid-way
between standard airfares and Air Deccan's Udipi
fares. Vijay Mallya, chief of the UB group which
owns Kingfisher Air, plans to take to the sky with
8 aircraft initially, and then add 14 more.
Another 4 will come later. Await the King of Good
Times to ring in better fare news.
Royal Airways has come out of the cold, after
eight years in the hangars. Royal Airways is the
new avatar of the erstwhile ModiLuft Airlines,
which was grounded in 1996. The airline had fallen
into financial problems, which are sorted out now.
The Modis are now bought from the company and
Royal Airways is owned, among others, by the
Kusagra family of London. Royal Air licence has
been renewed and they too plan to take off by
end-March or early April. Very recently, ABN
Mauritius and Citigroup jointly picked up a 5.2%
stake in the airline. The Royal Airlines stock
(one of the few listed Aviation companies) has
been going up on the stock exchanges, seeing good
GO Airlines is another, promoted by the Bombay
Dyeing group. Nusli Wadia, chairman of the Bombay
Dyeing group says that he's planning a long-term
operation. He does'nt want to be "just
another airline", he says, whatever he means
by that. The airline has received a licence to fly
and has secured aircraft on lease.
Two more airlines, Yamuna Air and Indus Air are
expected to have submitted applications for a
Meanwhile, there has been silence from the Tata
Group, which is keen on flying. The group, which
had even formed a consortium with Singapore
Airlines to bid for Air-India (which was,
incidentally, started by the Tata Group and later
nationalised) had been disappointed with the
cancellation of Air India privatisation programme.
The group has kept out of the recent air rush. One
wonders if the Tata group's aerial ambitions are
limited to Air India.
Jet Airways, India's long-standing private
airline, too has several cards up its sleeve. The
company has decided on an IPO, to mop up funds for
expanding its operations. Merchant bankers for the
Jet Air IPO are being shortlisted. Naresh Goel,
chairman of the company is in high spirits.
Meanwhile, Air Deccan, the upstart no-friller that
altered the rules of the flying game in India are
also zeroing in on an IPO. Air Deccan (the Udipi
restaurant on the sky, as its chairman Captain GR
Gopinath says) has already raised money from a
stake sale and is buying more ATR planes. Air
Deccan, India's cheapest aerial operator, now
plans to expand into the metro segments too. Till
now, it was largely a non-metro player.
Meanwhile, Jet Air and Air Sahara are on a
high. The new civil aviation poliy allows only
established private airlines to fly to foreign
locations. In short, it means that Jet Air and Air
Sahara can fly overseas while those skies will be
closed to other upstarts. Way to go for Royal Air,
Air Deccan, Kingfisher.
Currently, several airlines are following a
dynamic seat pricing model, where tickets are
variously priced based on demand. Innovative
frequent flier programmes are also being hatched,
which are expected to forge customer loyalty.
Experts say that airlines compete primarily on
three fortes -- low fares, customer service and
value-added services. While no-frillers fight the
price war, service is tom-tommed by their larger
We have no complaints -- The more the merrier!