Sunday, September 19, 2021

Mumbai seems to have lost the aviation game completely

The last few days have been fast-moving in Indian aviation, with the 100-day plan by the civil aviation ministry, followed by SpiceJet doing a second commercial settlement with a lessor, and the mid-week deadline for Air India’s financial bids.

To add to this, Jet Airways, now a company of the Jalan Kalrock Consortium, said that it plans to start operations in Q1 of 2022 even as it lays out plans for the first flight (New Delhi - Mumbai) and holds discussions with airports and lessors for slots, night parking and planes.

The most interesting aspect is that its new headquarters is in Gurugram, and it will continue to maintain its office in Kurla, Mumbai.

Over the last many years, the aviation industry has slowly shifted out of Mumbai. There are more reasons than one for the same. With this move by Jet Airways, Go First is the only airline which will remain headquartered in Mumbai (though its registered address is New Delhi). Mumbai once had Kingfisher Airlines, Jet Airways and Go Air, along with national carrier Air India.

As India opened up civil aviation in the early 1990s, a spate of new airlines came up. They included Jet Airways, Air Sahara, ModiLuft, NEPC and Damania. Their headquarters were split between Mumbai, then the largest airport in the country, and Delhi, the largest metropolitan region in the country.

The first phase was short-lived, with Jet Airways and Air Sahara surviving for the longer run. East West Airlines had its headquarters at Thiruvananthapuram and NEPC at Chennai.

Soon, the second phase started when Bengaluru got its first airline - Air Deccan, the country’s first low-cost carrier (LCC). It was headquartered at Bengaluru. The second phase saw Go Air (Mumbai), IndiGo (Gurugram), SpiceJet (erstwhile ModiLuft, continued with Gurugram), and Kingfisher Airlines (Mumbai) taking off.

Slowly, but surely, the shift had started taking place.

The airlines which came up later may not have survived for long, but most were based out of Delhi NCR. They include Air Mantra, Indus Air, MDLR and Zoom Air. None of them succeeded and so was the case of the airlines which sprung up across the country - be it Air Costa based out of VIjayawada, Air Pegasus in Bengaluru, Air Carnival in Coimbatore, Paramount in Chennai or Air Pegasus in Bhubaneshwar.

19/09/21 Ameya Joshi/Moneycontrol

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