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Friday, Feb 27, 2004

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Air Deccan to connect more cities with cheaper fares

Ashwini Phadnis

New Delhi , Feb. 26

IF you feel that flying is expensive business, think again. Come July, Air Deccan plans to launch flights between the five metros of Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore, Hyderabad and Chennai, at fares that will be 40-50 per cent less than the existing levels.

As part of the plan, the airline on Wednesday announced its decision to acquire two Airbus A-320 aircraft for expanding its operations to the metro cities. The two 180-seater all economy class Airbus A-320 aircraft on lease are expected to join the fleet in July this year. "During the first phase of expansion, we plan to connect the five large metro cities, including Delhi, Hyderabad and Chennai. In the second stage, which will unfold as we get more aircraft, will see the airline expand to metros like Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Kochi," the Air Deccan Managing Director, Captain G.R. Gopinath, told Business Line.

The airline, at present, operates ATR aircraft on regional routes and charges much less than what is charged by the major players. While Air Deccan charges Rs 1,496.74 for a one-way ticket on the Chennai-Bangalore sector, IA charges Rs 2,655. Similarly, on the Mumbai-Goa sector, IA charges Rs 3,115 for a one-way ticket as compared to Rs 2,016.67 charged by Air Deccan.

The airline, which is to start recruiting pilots and engineers soon for the new operations, is likely to make an announcement on its metro schedule by May this year, Captain Gopinath said. He said the airline would continue with e-ticketing for its metro operations as this was one way of cutting down on cost of operations.

Questioned on the proposed funding for the Airbus aircraft, Captain Gopinath said that the company was looking at strategic investments. "While there should be no problem in paying for the lease rentals, we are hopeful of getting some equity into the company during the year which should help in the two aircraft that the airline plans to purchase," he said.

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