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Kingfisher all set for maiden flight

Vinay Kumar

Aims to corner five per cent of domestic market; to acquire 11 aircraft by December



IN-FLIGHT ENTERTAINMENT: A flat screen TV for every passenger inside a Kingfisher Airlines Airbus. The inaugural flight of the airline takes off on Monday. — PTI

NEW DELHI: When the third major private airline Kingfisher's maiden flight takes off from Bangalore to Mumbai on Monday, it will signal the beginning of yet another round of fare wars in the domestic skies. Also, as international routes are being thrown open for private carriers and newer ones waiting in the wings to take to the skies by this winter, a bitter war among the two aircraft manufacturers — Boeing and European consortium Airbus for grabbing a share of the growing Indian market for commercial jetliners has made the civil aviation sector as the most happening one.

Promoted by flamboyant liquor baron, UB group chief and Rajya Sabha member Vijay Mallya, Kingfisher would aim at cornering five per cent share of the domestic market. Flying all economy class with 174 seats in its Airbus A-320 aircraft, the airline would provide a choice of audio and video channels for in-flight entertainment and would have fares slightly less than those of Indian Airlines and the two other private carriers — Jet Airways and Air Sahara. For all you know, a celebrity guest, including one of the top of the line models, could set next to you on a Kingfisher flight.

Alex Wilcox, CEO of Kingfisher, says the airline would not adopt the low-cost, no-frills model but chart the middle course. It has outsourced the maintenance and group support to Indian Airlines for nearly Rs. 150 crore annually and would have a reduced strength of about 70 personnel an aircraft to cut down on costs. According to Dr. Mallya, Kingfisher would acquire 11 aircraft by December and would have 33 aircraft after two years, aiming to become the largest private Indian airline by 2010.

Low-cost fare

Started by Air Deccan nearly 18 months ago, the low-cost fare of Rs. 500 forced the public sector Indian Airlines and the private carriers, Jet and Sahara, to rework their strategies. Air Deccan has focussed on the strategy of connecting smaller towns with metros by a mix of its fleet that include ATRs and A-320s. The summer season will witness the launch of yet another private carrier, SpiceJet which will begin operations with three new Boeing 737-800 aircraft and concentrate on a few routes. Poised for winter launch is MagicAir, promoted by Nira Radia, and in September Nusli Wadia's Go Airlines is slated to begin operations with leased aircraft. This scenario is likely to see airfares coming down by nearly 25 to 30 per cent.

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