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Air Deccan to link 'unconnected' towns in South

By Rasheed Kappan

BANGALORE AUG. 12. Prepare for a flight from Bangalore to Chennai at just Rs. 1,700. Linking most `unconnected' and `badly connected' South Indian towns by air, offering no-frills air travel at half the regular fares, the Bangalore-based Air Deccan is all set to launch its regional airline with the initial 24 low-cost flights on August 25.

With a fleet of six ATR-42-320 turbo-prop aircraft, Air Deccan will connect the hitherto unconnected towns of Hubli, Belgaum, Tirupati, Rajamundry, Vijayawada, Puttaparthi, Mysore, Hampi, Salem, and Tuticorin. Besides, regular flights are on the agenda between Bangalore, Coimbatore, Hyderabad, and Chennai. All the schedules will have return flights.

Signalling its acquisition drive, Air Deccan took delivery of the first two of the ATR 42 aircraft at the European airline consortium, ATR's facility in Toulouse, France. The aircraft, on a five-year lease, were formally handed over to Air Deccan Managing Director, Captain G. R. Gopinath, and Vice-Chairman, S. N. Ladani, by ATR Senior Vice-President (Commercial), Paolo Revelli-Beaumont, general secretary, Jean-Pierre Cousserans, and sales director, Jean Luc Establie.

While the four aircraft will join the Air Deccan fleet in the first phase, two more will be added in October and November. ATR, under a General Maintenance Agreement (GMA) signed with Air Deccan, will provide maintenance and overhaul facilities which include periodic air checks on the airframe, avionics, and engines. The services are payable on a per flight hour basis.

Modelled on the low-cost American Ryan Air and South-West Airlines, Air Deccan will not provide free food, airhostess, or the frequent flyer discounts for the passengers. With all ticketing done through an Internet-based model networked to a 24-hour call centre, the company has also cut down its distribution costs to only 3 per cent (23 per cent of all costs in conventional airlines).

To book tickets, passengers in Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, and Kerala need to only call a local number and disclose their credit card number. This will generate a PNR number which will be faxed, e-mailed, or intimated by phone to the passenger. This PNR number could be exchanged for a boarding pass at the airport.

Those without credit cards could contact a travel agent to generate an e-ticket using the latter's credit card. "Customers could also buy tickets at one or two kiosks which will be soon set up in the cities," Capt. Gopinath said.

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