Opening Floodgates..! [Image source]
Who pioneered low-cost airlines in India?
Because of whom is there a rush of air passengers in India?
The answer to both is Captain GR Gopinath. Until he arrived with his Air Deccan in the Indian aviation sky, the pie of lucrative air traffic was firmly in the hands of a few, notably Jet Airways and Air Sahara, apart from the ailing Indian Airlines, now Indian.
Air Deccan’s USP was dirt-cheap air fares, which it maintained and still maintains on the back of no-frill passenger amenity, online ticket booking, bare-bone ground facility, and suchlike. Not that majority of passengers complained.
More importantly, Captain Gopinath opened the floodgate of more cheap airlines taking wings, among which important ones are Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airline, SpiceJet, and GoAir.
It also helped that the country’s economy, growing at a healthy rate, is making more people air-borne to cut traveling time, and the government’s pro-industry moves to allow private airlines offering trips abroad.
Suddenly, air travel is no longer a luxury as it used to be even 3 years back. Common people, who rarely dreamt of traveling by air, are now opting for it more and more. As a result, the airports are choc-a-bloc with passengers all through the day, and even a minor incident can cause to disrupt flight schedules in a row.
Now there is the second phase of expansion of aviation sector in India coming up. On one hand, the equity-level tie-up between Kingfisher Airline and Air Deccan and Jet’s acquisition of Air Sahara are indications of consolidation among airline companies.
On the other, airports are on the path of expansion. Mumbai and Delhi airports are the busiest ones and therefore need urgent upgrading. Kolkata airport too is to start renovation soon, what with alarming rise of passengers of late, causing stampede-like situation often.
In a way, Captain Gopinath is the person to bring about this change in aviation sector. Among other things, the surge in the number of institutes offering courses on in-flight services and plans to open hitherto closed airports in far-flung areas are a testimony to the buoyancy in the sector.
However, for all that matter, may be we would no longer see the dirt-cheap rates that Air Deccan has been offering thus far.
No grudge there, for after all if the industry doesn’t survive, facilities don’t. Captain Gopinath has prized open an avalanche of opportunity in air travel in India. He’ll be remembered for that.