Saturday, November 25, 2017

Call to link smaller towns saw ATR’s second coming

Mumbai: Close to 15 years ago it was the booming Indian air travel industry that pulled up French-Italian turboprop plane maker ATR out of a spiral spin downwards. In 2003, ATR’s aircraft sales were down to 6-10 units a year, barely enough to survive. There were frequent meetings wherein the prospects of shutting shop were discussed.

Along came GR Gopinath, promoter of India’s first low fare carrier Air Deccan. Gopinath placed an order for 30 planes, a significant shot in the arm to ATR. Months later, an order for another 35 turboprops came from Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher AirlinesBSE 3.03 % decisively pulling out ATR from its state of despair.

ATR planes had been sold in India since 1999. But it was Air Deccan’s turboprops that connected the remotest corners of the country from Hyderabad to Hubli, Rajkot to Rajamundhry, Jaipur to Jammu.

Later, Air Deccan’s own financial problems forced Gopinath to sell it to Kingfisher, which itself folded operations subsequently.

In 2017, responding to the government’s call to connect smaller towns, the country’s biggest airline IndiGo once again turned to the original air connector of small towns. It placed an order for 50 ATR turboprops.

In many ways the order marks ATR’s “second coming” into India, says David Vargas, head of press and editorials at the plane maker. ATR has faced a lull in India in the last few years, with airlines shying away from the smaller towns and dumping capacity in the metro airports. India’s six busiest airports now handle more than 50% of its domestic traffic.
25/11/17 Anirban Chowdhury/Economic Times