Online edition of India's National Newspaper
Sunday, Apr 11, 2004

About Us
Contact Us
National
News: Front Page | National | Tamil Nadu | Andhra Pradesh | Karnataka | Kerala | New Delhi | Other States | International | Opinion | Business | Sport | Miscellaneous |
Advts:
Classifieds | Employment |

National Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Low-cost flight under a cloud

By Our Bangalore Bureau

BANGALORE, APRIL 10. Veena (not her real name) is still a little nervous. On March 29, she was on an Air Deccan (a `no frills' low cost carrier) Goa-Bangalore flight that was grounded half an hour after take-off.

"When the plane took off, a little smoke filled the cabin. That was bearable, but 20 minutes later, smoke came out of the air-conditioning vents and all of us panicked," she recalls. According to her, the cabin crew "never bothered" to tell them what went wrong. A co-passenger Martin (not his real name), a doctor in Bangalore, had booked himself on the flight because of an early interview the next day. "But the plane returned to Goa and the airline did not make alternative arrangements for us," he said. Ultimately, these two passengers had to take a Goa-Bangalore bus and the doctor had to put off his interview. Veena said, "At no cost will I fly low cost."

Martin agrees that accidents can happen on any aircraft. "But just because yours is a no-frills carrier, you cannot take the passengers for granted."

Low cost carriers, though a new concept in India, have long been accused in the West of "cutting corners on safety as well as sandwiches." Air Deccan too had an inauspicious beginning: On the inaugural flight from Hyderabad to Vijayawada in September 2003, the plane caught fire just before take-off, on the tarmac. The Minister for Civil Aviation, Rajiv Pratap Rudy, and the BJP president, M. Venkaiah Naidu, were on the plane. The passengers rushed out to safety.

Air Deccan's MD, G.R. Gopinath, had said, "Fuel vapour leaked and came into contact with the exhaust of the left engine. The engine did not catch fire." With regard to the incident of March 29, he told The Hindu, "A failed engine bearing allowed burnt fuel to enter an air circulation system used to pressurise and maintain the temperature in the cabin."

So the plane had to be grounded. The maintenance was on a `power by hour' contract with the manufacturer, ATR, he said. "It is a little more expensive than if we did it ourselves, but safer."

Yet, the engine bearing had given way. "The engine, made by Pratt & Whitney, comes to us sealed. No one here is allowed to open it, for there aren't any good service facilities in India for these engines. The engine is sent to them and comes back repaired," he said. It is not clear if the engine in this case was sent to Pratt & Whitney. But Capt. Gopinath said, "The aircraft was serviced, and it is flying."

Air Deccan's website says it has a modern fleet of ATR-42-320 aircraft, "one of the finest and most efficient Turbo-Prop aircraft flying." ATR is a European joint venture between Alenia Aeronautica and EADS.

Now Air Deccan is India's only low cost carrier. Others are on their way. On the Goa-Bangalore sector, the all-told tariff on Air Deccan is Rs. 2,150. Indian Airlines charges Rs. 3,775 and Jet Airways Rs. 4,076.

Printer friendly page  
Send this article to Friends by E-Mail

National

News: Front Page | National | Tamil Nadu | Andhra Pradesh | Karnataka | Kerala | New Delhi | Other States | International | Opinion | Business | Sport | Miscellaneous |
Advts:
Classifieds | Employment | Updates: Breaking News |


News Update


The Hindu Group: Home | About Us | Copyright | Archives | Contacts | Subscription
Group Sites: The Hindu | Business Line | The Sportstar | Frontline | The Hindu eBooks | Home |

Copyright 2004, The Hindu. Republication or redissemination of the contents of this screen are expressly prohibited without the written consent of The Hindu