Thursday, March 09, 2017

Capt Gopinath has a flight plan ready, and this time it's regional

Bengaluru: Ten years after he sold India’s first no-frills airline Air Deccan to Vijay Mallya, Captain Gopinath is ready to enter the passenger aviation services business again. He has registered for bidding for regional commercial routes, aimed at bringing India’s tier-three and tier-four cities on aviation map.
While many would say Captain Gopinath never went away and point to his charter service business Deccan Charter, everybody knows that it is the commercial passenger services where the Captain’s heart lies.

Gorur Ramaswamy Iyengar Gopinath, 65 – known in the industry as Captain Gopi – was out on a trek in the Western Ghats when Mumbai Mirror managed to establish contact with him for a brief while on Thursday. He confirmed his imminent re-entry into the business and said Deccan Charters is one of the 20 air operator permit holders who have registered for bidding for regional routes.

Soon after he bought Air Deccan, Mallya had merged it into his full-service luxury airline Kingfisher. It was a mistake and Mallya a paid the price for it. Burdened by high turbine fuel prices and airport charges, the airline folded up in 2013. The disaster that Kingfisher Airline turned out to be, brought back to everybody’s mind Captain Gopinath’s prophetic words at the time of the merger. “Men are from Mars and women are from Venus,” he had said, alluding to Kingfisher and Air Deccan being awkward bedfellows.

Gopinath believes there is tremendous scope for regional airlines as there are many airstrips/airports that are not serviced by commercial airlines. He said popular tourist circuits like Shimla, Kulu and Manali in the north or Bellary and Hampi in the south or religious circuits all over the country will generate healthy passenger traffic if connected to cities like Mumbai and Delhi.
A retired army man, an aviator, an entrepreneur, a politician, a farmer and an author all rolled into one, Captain Gopinath said there are 600 plus airstrips awaiting commercial connectivity and about 500 of them have no connectivity at all. He said commercial passenger aviation in India has suffered because airlines’ over-dependence on the Delhi-Mumbai-Bangalore circuit, with Delhi and Mumbai accounting for 50 per cent of the total passenger load.
09/03/17 Aditya Anand/Bangalore Mirror