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More flights to smaller cities must for development: Air Deccan chief captain

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Pitching for more flights to non-metro and smaller cities from major airports in the country, Air Deccan chief captain G R Gopinath has said that such connectivity will lead to faster economic development of backward areas in the country. He also said that there is need to connect cities with a state’s capital to tap the daily traffic that takes place on account of business and official work.

“Regional towns are the backbone of India’s economy and are going to be the engines of growth going forward. However, it can’t happen unless there is connectivity of all sorts, including air connectivity,” Gopinath said. Citing the example of Mumbai, Gopinath said more than 60 per cent of the flights from Mumbai airport are to Delhi, Chennai, Bengaluru, Kolkata and other big cities and international destinations and this need needs to be balanced.

“Major airport operators across the country should allocate at least 25 per cent of their slots for regional routes as this will support the government’s all-round development programme,” he said. Observing that there are enterpreneuers, government officials and individuals who usually come to the state capital from smaller cities for business and official work at present by time-consuming road and rail transport, he said demand for air travel can be generated if people have such a connectivity.

“You need the development of smaller towns along with metro and big cities. I am going to smaller cities to stimulate demand there, where there is pent up demand,” he said. The founder of the low-cost airline model in India, Gopinath staged a comeback into commercial passenger airline business with Air Deccan’s first flight to Mumbai from Jalgaon as a scheduled commuter airline.

In March this year, Air Deccan had bagged 34 routes to operate in the first round of bidding for the government’s regional connectivity scheme UDAN, which seeks to connect unserved and under-served airports as well as make flying more affordable. However, it received the scheduled commuter operator (SCO) permit from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), which paved the way for Air Deccan to fly on mandated regional routes. He had said that Air Deccan will aim to stimulate air travel demand in smaller cities rather than compete with big players.

“We are actually not competing against big players. We are going to areas where either they were reluctant to go or at least they have no strategy for. They are looking at a different market, I am looking at a different market,” he had said.

In the first phase of its launch, Air Deccan would connect Nashik and Kolhapur besides Jalgaon, Air Deccan, along with its partner Air Odisha, plans to operate 108 daily flights from across 67 airports in the next five-six months, operated by a combined fleet of twelve 18-seater Beechcraft 1900D. Gopinath, in 2008, had exited the airline business after selling Air Deccan to the erstwhile Kingfisher Airlines. He, however, continued to operate air charter services under a non-scheduled operator permit.

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