Air Transport World

Praying for time.(PROFILE)(Air Deccan)

IT WAS AN ADVERTISEMENT THAT STRUCK A CHORD among millions of Indians. A poor carpenter in a village carves an aircraft model out of a block of wood for his school-going child. The child loves the model and plays with it all day, even placing it by his pillow while sleeping. Fast-forward 20 years to the now aged carpenter, who is surprised to receive an airline ticket by mail from his son who lives far away in the city. The whole village shares the carpenter's joy as he leaves for the airport to visit his son on what is obviously his first airplane trip.


The now familiar TV spot is for India's first low-cost airline, Air Deccan, a carrier that began its journey about four years ago with the promise that "Everyone Can Fly" (a slogan that closely mimics that of Asia's first and most successful LCC, AirAsia). The credo was more than just a clever line, bringing hope of cheap air travel in a country where 96% of the population had never flown.

Today, however, the question is whether Air Deccan can continue to fly in the face of heavy losses owing to rampant capacity growth and ruinous fare wars among India's domestic airlines. Many of its woes have been self-inflicted, as it has disillusioned passengers with poor service delivery and disappointed investors with its financial returns. It has addressed the former, but it is not known whether it can woo new investment with the promise of better days to come.

Air Deccan launched in 2003 offering tickets for an unbelievable INR500 (about $11), calling itself the "common man's airline." Its entry coincided with an economic boom that had led to an increase in spending power for a middle class of more than 300 million people, though air travel by expensive legacy carriers was still out of reach for most. …

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