Thursday, May 18, 2023

Regional airline Star Air flies on Govt’s UDAN scheme to profitability

Where most airlines are unenthusiastic about the Centre’s ambitions of putting the hinterlands on the aviation map, a four-year-old start-up airline Star Air is not only expanding its fleet but is offering business class on the non-lucrative routes.

Promoted by the diversified Sanjay Ghodawat group, the airline has made the most of the government’s regional connectivity scheme (RCS) that incentivises carriers to boost air connectivity to areas lacking it.

In a market dominated by large Airbus and Boeing jets, the Bengaluru-based company is the only airline in India to use Embraer aircraft, which are less than half the size of the most popular jetliners.

A senior Star Air official said that while large planes like the Airbus 320 or the Boeing 737 are unsuitable to fly on RCS routes, the propeller-powered turboprops are slower than commercial jets. Despite the growing influence of Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities such as Jamnagar, Kochi, Kolhapur, Gurugram and Lucknow, no airline offers business class on such routes.

Shrenik Ghodawat, Director, Star Air said, “There are lots of business travellers who are either visiting their factories or their corporate offices in the smaller cities. We have been looking at the trend of fares that people are paying and there are lots of last-minute bookings.”

A business class seat on Star Air one-way direct flight between Jamnagar and Hyderabad is sold at Rs 11,000 while an Air India flight with one stop between the same two cities costs Rs 36,000 for May 23. An economy class ticket from Air India costs Rs 7,000 on the same route. Aircraft having less than 80 seats and weighing less than 40 tonne benefit from lower taxes and charges at airports.

18/05/2023 Swaraj Baggonkar/Financial Express

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