There was a special game we played in school at lunchtime. One needed to choose their animal of choice and then conquer a hypothetical mission using the special capabilities of that animal. I remember choosing a bird, almost always. My answers to the pervasive “what would you want to be when you grow up” queries would inevitably be “A pilot”. Yet my first chance to fly came as a teenager shelling out 10 grand of my father’s hard earned money. My second flight was about two years later, which I funded from my pocket money for a little more than a grand!
A visionary who had democratized the Indian skies by making it available for the “Common Indian” had orchestrated the substantial fare difference between my first and second flight. When Capt. Gopinath flagged off the first flight to Hubli from Bangalore, his Air Deccan gave birth to the dream that every Indian can now fly.
But in these 10 years, gazillions of water has flown through the Ganges and so has the dream of the common Indian flier. Skyrocketing operational costs have increased the base fares considerably and an airline that promised to fly you like a king without paying like one has bitten the dust.
Air Deccan had brought in many firsts in India’s aviation sector. It was the first airline to revolutionize the traditional agent based flight ticket booking in India by introducing online ticket booking as the primary booking method. It had also connected India’s big cities to the second tier ones, which no one ever found profitable to attempt. But with its exit, many smaller cities have gone out of the commercial flying map forever.
The announcement of Air Asia’s entry into the Indian airline market last month came as a delight to many budget travellers who had a chance to foray into unknown territories, thanks to the unbelievable prices of the airline. The Malaysia based carrier is Asia’s largest low fare, no-frills airline and a pioneer in adding hidden jewels from South East Asia to the global flying map.
If Air Asia will bring a deluge of low price offers or not is yet to be seen but it certainly comes with a promise of bringing India’s smaller towns with tourist attractions on the flier’s map. As a traveller, I would love to see a Shimla, a Jodhpur, a Khajuraho or a Shillong on my boarding pass.
The last few months have seen an intense tussle between the low cost airlines in India leading to a price war. The dwindling passenger numbers in the low flying season have seen offers drizzling down on the traveller’s lap. You don’t need to be cynic to believe that India’s aviation market isn’t looking too rosy at the moment and that is exactly where Air Asia’s entry becomes even more interesting.
Air Asia’s tagline “Now everyone can fly” will be decidedly put to test after its launch in India. Time will tell if it will succeed in making Capt. Gopi’s vision a reality. For now, an optimist in me hopes that it gets transformed to “Now everyone can fly … to everywhere”