Deccan Shuttles Introduces Regional Service

Saturday, 27th October 2012 at 02:29am

Gujarat's first regional airline, Deccan Shuttles, made its inaugural flights from its hub in Ahmedabad to Bhavnagar, Kandla, and Surat last August 27 this year marking a first in the state's aviation history.

Prior to the launch, no cities within Gujarat state were interconnected by air. Deccan Shuttles is owned by G.R. Gopinath, who is the founder of the erstwhile Air Deccan before it was sold to Kingfisher Airlines.

The airline is using a couple of 9 seater single-engine turboprop Cessna 208B Grand Caravans to connect these two intrastate routes. The Ahmedabad-Surat-Bhavnagar and Ahmedabad-Kandla routes will be the first direct air links between cities within the state. The airline's top honcho also revealed that Deccan Shuttles is now planning to create similar model in other parts of India to link intrastate cities that previously didn't have such air connections between them.

Prior to Deccan Shuttles service, all major cities in Gujarat have air access only to major cities outside the state such as Bangalore, Mumbai and Delhi. With the new air service between these major intrastate destinations, one needs to fork out only less than $100 for the 20-minute flight.

Deccan Shuttles operates as a regular scheduled airline. However, the country's aviation regulatory body place them in a 'charter' service category based on the country's air transport regulations. As opposed to charter service airlines, a regular scheduled airline sells tickets only to individual passengers, not to a group of travelers.

While single-engine aircraft are not allowed for commercial operations in Europe, it is not the case in India as India's Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) consider them as modern engines and therefore airworthy.

Although the turboprops are configured for 12 seats, Deccan Shuttles was only allowed 9 seats.

The chairman of Regional Airport Holding India,Umesh Baveja, lamented that India's current air transport regulations have stunted the growth of regional airline service in the country. He cited that in India, an operator is required to have a copilot and cabin crew for planes carrying more than 9 passengers which add burden to small operators who are already struggling to make a profit. In other countries, however, the same requirements are only necessary if the planes carry more than 19 passengers on board.

Another obstacle to the growth of India's regional airlines is the high operating costs they have to bear. The cost of ground handling services in the majority of the country's airports have increased up to 35 percent of the gross revenue of the service providers.

As if it is not enough, regional operators have to bear the high training costs of pilots they want to hire. A pilot who operates a single-engine aircraft needs to meet the minimum national regulatory standards as set by the national governing body which mean longer flying hours.

The airline is planning to initially mount 12 flights daily between the two routes. It is hoping to increase its fleet to four by the yearend.

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