Air Transport World

More than a branding exercise: Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines is not just about selling beer.(PROFILE)

When Indian liquor baron Vijay Mallya launched Kingfisher Airlines in 2005, most people in the airline business said it was just an attempt to get publicity for his beer of the same name in a country where direct advertising of liquor is banned and companies have to resort to surrogate measures to build brand recognition. Another reason for skepticism was Mallya's larger-than-life persona that is associated with luxury yachts, swimsuit calendars and the good life. Few were willing to bet that he would have the persistence necessary to succeed in a highly competitive, low-margin business like the air transport industry.


Perhaps they should have gone to their history books to look at what happened the last time a jet-setting playboy with a well-known brand decided to launch an airline in the face of similar skepticism over his airline virginity. Like Richard Branson, Mallya has proved the skeptics wrong.

In the three years since it took to the skies, the Mumbai-based carrier has had one of the steepest growth curves in the domestic aviation industry. More importantly, Kingfisher has redefined passenger expectations with a superior service offering, in large part by creating a brand that has put the glamour back into flying. This has been followed by strategic decisions that have put it on the growth path. Primary among them are the merger in December with India's first low-cost carrier, Air Deccan (ATW, 5/07, p. 48), and the drawing up of an ambitious plan for long-haul operations to Europe and the US.

The Kingfisher-Deccan merger has resulted in an airline with a fleet of 84 aircraft, a combination of A319s/A320s/A321s and ATR turboprops. …

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