Sunday, March 12, 2017

High hopes and rough landings for India’s smaller airlines

Mumbai: Indeevar Varma, a human resources manager from Ahmedabad in the western state of Gujarat, was put off flying with Air Costa, a small regional budget Indian airline, after he says he "was bounced like a ball" during "a rough landing" when he travelled from Hyderabad to Ahmedabad several months ago.

"That was the worst landing I’ve encountered," Mr Varma recalls. Apart from that, "there was nothing unique about the airline but the planes were OK", he says.

Having avoided the carrier for some time, a few weeks ago he decided to give Air Costa another go. He booked a ticket from Ahmedabad to Hyderabad for March 7. A few days before the flight, he received a text message saying the flight had been cancelled.

It was on February 28 that Air Costa, which was founded in 2013 and is based in south India, suspended flights as it faces a cash crisis.

The sudden suspension follows a similar situation eights months ago, when Air Pegasus, a Bangalore-based regional carrier with three 66-seat aircraft, abruptly stopped flying because of financial difficulties, after operating for just over a year.

These events raise questions over the viability of regional carriers in the cut-throat aviation market in India, where a flurry of regional services in the past couple of years launched with high hopes.

Air Costa is desperately trying to raise funds from investors. The airline is owned by LEPL Group, which has interests in property and renewable energy and was founded by the entrepreneur LP Bhaskara Rao.
11/03/17 Rebecca Bundhun/The Nationa

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