Air Costa, promoted by the Vijayawda-based LEPL Group, hit the skies in October 2013. The airline, which started operations with two Embraer E-170 planes, is now planning to expand its reach.
It currently operates 34 daily flights and connects the nine cities of Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Ahmedabad, Tirupati, Coimbatore, Visakhapatnam, and Vijayawada. Air Costa operates with four aircraft: two Embraer E170 (67 seats), and two Embraer E190 (112 seats) jets.
The airline is on solid ground after reporting operating profits for December and is pursuing a pan-India permit. Air Costa Chairman Ramesh Lingamaneni and Chief Financial Officer Vivek Choudhary tells Deccan Herald’s Shemin Joy the airline’s success mantra and the way forward.
What are Air Costa’s future expansion plans? Are you planning to fly to Delhi and other metros?
Ramesh Lingamaneni: Air Costa currently holds a regional schedule airline permit for southern region and flies to nine cities, of which seven are in South India. The metros we currently operate to are Chennai, Bengaluru, and Hyderabad. We are pursuing a pan-India permit and plan to connect other metros, including Delhi, to other non-metros and smaller cities on receiving the permit.
As of now, Jaipur is the only North Indian destination. Will you be flying to other north Indian cities?
Vivek Choudhary: Jaipur and Ahmedabad are the two cities that are outside the southern region in our network. We plan to fly to cities such as Bhubaneswar, Lucknow, Varanasi, Chandigarh and Indore, among others as and when we induct further aircraft into our fleet.
Will it be flying more services to Bengaluru?
Lingamaneni: It will depend on the market dynamics. Currently, we fly the maximum number of passengers from and to Bengaluru and will try and expand our services from Bengaluru to other cities.
How do you see the aviation sector in 2015?
Lingamaneni: The year has started on a good note with the reduction in fuel prices. We project the year ahead to have the same seasonality in demand. However, the supply of seats may be enhanced with existing airlines adding aircraft and new airlines over the horizon waiting to start commercial operations.
We see the regional market continuing to grow at a faster pace than the trunk routes. We foresee established airlines evolving their strategy to parallelly focus on regional connectivity. We also expect a change in the route dispersal guidelines.
Airlines are competing with each other to woo customers. What improvements in service are you planning?
Choudhary: We have recently launched in-flight services like meals-on-board and pre-booked meals. We also have an economy-plus seating option for our passengers. The past quarter we tied up with Andhra Pradesh Tourism Development Corporation (APTDC) for offering a package of Lord Balaji Darshan at Tirumala, and stay at Tirupathi, for passengers from Hyderabad, Vizag, and Vijayawada.
We also have a tie-up with Tripfactory.com to provide our passengers with accommodation facility option along with air services. We also have a weight per passenger policy of 20 kg as against the 15 kg of weight limit of other domestic airlines.
This year, we plan to introduce frequent flier programmes and loyalty programmes for our passengers and enhance our services with added tour packages and tie-ups with complementary parties. We also plan to enhance our corporate offerings.
Air Costa has made operating profit for the first time in December 2014.Choudhary: Yes, This is the first time Air Costa is posting a monthly operational profit in December 2014. The main reason is our focused sales strategy, coupled with good revenue management and marketing initiatives.
Also the seasonal demand was healthy and we played to our network strength. Air Costa is slowly sustaining and establishing itself as a strong regional airline. We have a positive outlook and aim to stabilising our revenues and costs.
What is the fleet size and expansion plans?
Choudhary: We plan to add four E 190 (112 seater) aircraft each in 2015 and in 2016. We will soon be able to start pan-India operations. Our focus will be to stick to our basic plan of connecting underserved and unserved sectors.