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`Air Sahara to sport new look in New Year'

Ashwini Phadnis

Hyderabad , Nov. 5

AIR Sahara will sport a brand new look in the New Year.

"In the next two months or so, there will a new-look Air Sahara. We are focusing on a number of areas with service being just one of them. The airline should be ready to roll it out shortly," the President of Air Sahara, Mr Rono Dutta, told Business Line.

With Mr Dutta taking charge of Air Sahara about three months ago, the airline's focus has been on several key areas, including further improving on-time performance, the levels of service, profitability and cash flows, apart from drawing up a fleet expansion plan.

While for the passenger, the changes could be felt while they purchase the ticket or the on-board comfort, there are other steps also being taken which may not be very visible.

In an effort to control costs further, the airline is looking at ways to bring down maintenance costs. "We have been going through every deal with vendors and trying to come up with some thing which is more effective. Besides, we are also looking at all our overhead costs, be it in the area of real estate or distribution. We are trying to get a better deal," Mr Dutta said.

Senior airline officials noted that the recent initiatives were paying dividends. The airline has been able to reduce maintenance costs by 12 per cent, while overhead costs are down by as much as 8 per cent.

The airline has also drawn up a plan for acquiring more aircraft, with at least three Boeing aircraft (two Boeing 737-700 and one Boeing 737-300) scheduled to join the fleet by May next year. "We are also negotiating for more aircraft, including medium capacity long range aircraft which will be used to launch more international operations. We are looking at the plain lease option although the purchase option is not being ruled out," Mr Dutta said.

Officials indicated that if it had not been for the sharp northward movement in prices of aviation turbine fuel in the recent past, the airline would have reported much better financials.

However, the airline has seen an increase in its passenger load factor, which has gone up by 7 per cent during September this year as compared to the same period last year.

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