'We will embark on pan-India operations soon'

'We will embark on pan-India operations soon'

Regional carrier Air Costa is looking at widening its horizon, planning to expand its operations across the country. The Vijayawada-based airline recently received the No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Union Civil Aviation Ministry, and is just a step away from taking to the skies, as it is waiting for DGCA’s Air Operators Permit (AOP).  

   

In an interaction with Deccan Herald’s Shemin Joy, Air Costa Deputy Chief  Executive Officer Vivek Choudhary shares the flight plan of the company going forward.

You have received the NoC from the Civil Aviation Ministry. When do you expect to get the AOP? When can you start operations?
We received the NOC for pan-India operations. We have initiated the AOP application process, and are hopeful of obtaining the same in a month.

Subsequently, we will be able to start the pan-India operations from the summer schedule 2016, commencing March 27, 2016.

What are your destinations in the first year as you plan to expand pan-India? What are your long-term plans? What are the targets ahead?
We are looking at options of connecting Delhi and Mumbai to our existing network. Our long-term plan will be to extend our current philosophy of connecting the metros to smaller towns and cities at a pan-India level.

We believe that the market for 80-120 seats is the fastest growing segment and will dominate the aviation space in the coming years, as we see the demand for air travel increasing in more tier II and tier III cities.

Also, the government’s initiatives on improving air transport infrastructure in the smaller towns and cities will help us consolidate our position in this segment. We are also strongly placed, as currently, we are the only operator of aircraft in the 80-120 seater segment (from Brazilian aircraft manufacturer Embraer).
 
What are your preparations for the transformation from a regional airline to a pan-India carrier? What change can one expect in Air Costa compared with your competitors?
Our business plan of connecting the metros to smaller towns, and interconnecting the smaller towns and cities, will be replicated at a pan-India level. We shall be adding more cities to our network depending on our aircraft induction plan. We believe that we are the only player with a product in the 80-120 seat segment at the moment. Our focus is to capitalise and capture such markets at the moment.
 
How was 2015 for Air Costa? Will you be able to improve your seat occupancy? With pan-India expansion, what is the expected increase in market share?
In the passing year, we were able to achieve a market share of one per cent in the domestic airline market. With pan-India services, and induction of additional aircraft, we are definitely looking at increasing our market share.

What is your fleet expansion plans considering pan-India operations?
We will add at least four Embraer E190 aircraft in 2016, and four more in 2017.
 
How do you evaluate the aviation sector in 2015?
We believe that the airline sector in India is on the upswing, and the upward trend will continue at a rate of 10-15 per cent for the next 3-5 years. We also estimate the 80-120 seat market to grow at least 25 per cent, each year, in the medium-term.
 
The Civil Aviation Policy is likely to be unveiled soon. What are your expectations? Do you see restrictions like the 5/20 rule to go?
We have requested the ministry to include the below-120 seat aircraft in the classification of a regional aircraft. As per the draft policy, the ministry has proposed to replace the 5/20 rule with a point system, which in our opinion is a complicated mechanism. We do believe that it will do good for international connections and the Indian airline industry as a whole, if the 5/20 rule is off the policy.
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