Hope takes a low-cost flight to Goa

Hope takes a low-cost flight to Goa

Hope takes a low-cost flight to Goa

Piloted by Capt Manish Uppal, as the maiden AirAsia flight from Bangalore to Goa lifted off from the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) runway at 3.35 pm on Thursday, the passengers broke into a spontaneous applause.

They had a solid reason to cheer: For the first time in years, a budget airline held the promise of a genuine, sustainable return to low-cost air travel.

Forty per cent of those excited passengers had paid just Rs 990 or less for a journey that would have cost them much more on an airconditioned train or bus. But 10 per cent had paid even less, a promotional Rs 5 per ticket! They had grabbed those tickets in a jiffy.

For, they were not so sure whether such rates would sustain for long. Sitting beside them with his family, AirAsia’s Chief Executive Officer, Mittu Chandilya reassured them.

The costs, lowered by a unique “unbundling” method, would remain affordable.

Heading to Goa for a holiday, young architect Shruti Shet relished the opportunity. But she too had her doubts and apprehensions.

“I am not sure whether the fares would be so cheap in the future. They might increase when demand picks up. Still, I bet they will not get unaffordable since they are backed by strong players,” she reasoned.

First-time fliers, avid maiden flight buffs, budget-fare hunters, the Airbus A320 had them all. Greeting them in their chic, bright red attire were the flight attendants, wearing a welcoming smile. They did charge for the food and soft drinks, but the first passengers had a gift in store too. The passengers knew AirAsia was taking its first baby steps to battle the likes of IndiGo and SpiceJet, Go Air and Air India

An hour before take-off, Chandilya had worked out the price dynamics for the media and explained how AirAsia would remain strong in the business: “Our fares will be 35 per cent lower than the market rates. At this rate, we believe we can sustain and be profitable. Going forward, we intend to bring down the tariff further as we are sure that we can make revenues with stable operations.”

For Dr Brenden Dias, a doctor from St John’s medical college, the flight was the perfect option for his frequent trips to his native Goa. “Many Goans like me are working in Bangalore. I travel once a month. The fare fits very well for me. But I am afraid whether they can maintain this. Maybe they can,” said he. Yet, no such thoughts had bothered Divya Mohandas, who grabbed the first ticket on offer and was rewarded for the same.

She was the chosen one for two free tickets.

The AirAsia India CEO had a word on the offers. “We are not interested in offering promotional discounted offers, which is normally for a temporary period. We will continue to charge a base fare of Rs 990. Our long-term goal is to offer air travel at affordable rates and provide an opportunity to every Indian to fly. Our competition is with the Indian Railways and not with other airlines in the country.”

Since the fare was “unbundled,” passengers had to pay for their check-in luggage, an issue that had invited problems for the airline with the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA). Chandilya said AirAsia was in talks with the regulator to sort it out. But such concerns appeared not to bother many passengers who were travelling light on inaugural day.