A Correspondent

Not to opt for the budget route for its new services

  • Air Sahara to introduce special package for Government employees
  • Operates seven services a day out of Kochi airport

    KOCHI: Air Sahara hopes to launch services to West Asia, subject to approval from the Government, by the beginning of next year, Alok Sharma, president of the airline, said here recently.

    Addressing a press conference, Mr. Sharma said the airline would complete three years of international operations this December. It hoped to launch its West Asia services by January 2008. As per the existing stipulations, three years of experience in international operations is mandatory for securing approval to fly to West Asia.

    Mr. Sharma said the airline would not opt for the budget route for its West Asia services and would target passengers who prefer quality service to low fares.

    `Good prospects'

    According to him, the presence of numerous budget carriers in the sector would not dampen Air Sahara's prospects. Mr. Sharma was confident of securing a dedicated passenger base despite the intense competition.

    Mr. Sharma said the airline had introduced a special package for the benefit of employees, especially Government employees, availing themselves of Leave Travel Concession (LTC) facility. Under this package, a person from any of the North Indian destinations on buying an up and down ticket to Kerala or even Male would be entitled to a nine-night stay without paying any additional amount for food and accommodation.

    Besides, numerous other holiday packages are being provided by the airline in association with hotels, he said. According to him, Air Sahara has become the "biggest pusher" of holiday passengers from North India to Kerala.

    Flight to Male

    He said with the introduction of the daily service connecting Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram to Male, Air Sahara has become the first private carrier to operate international sector service out of Kerala. The fare on the Kochi-Male sector is Rs.6,810 (inclusive of taxes) while from Thiruvananthapuram the fare is Rs.5.685.

    Besides, the airline now operates three services on the Kochi-Delhi sector. While one is a direct service, the other two are operated via Bangalore and Hyderabad. The services are scheduled in such way that passengers travelling from Kochi to Delhi or from Delhi to Kochi could return to their original destination the very same day.

    The minimum fare on the Kochi-Delhi sector is Rs. 4,150 (inclusive of taxes) and a specific number of seats would be available for this fare.

    As there are three services, the number of seats available at the minimum fare would be more, Mr. Sharma said.

    He said night-parking of a flight at Kochi airport was the key factor, especially in augmenting its Delhi sector services, as it enables the airline to operate the first service out of Kochi daily. The flight leaves for Delhi via Bangalore at 6 a.m. and will return at 11.30 p.m.

    Besides, one more service had been launched on the Bangalore-Kochi sector with minimum fare of Rs. 2,050. The airline now operates seven services a day out of Kochi airport, Mr. Sharma said.

    Welcomes merger

    Welcoming the proposed merger of Air-India and Indian, Mr. Sharma said that it was good for the country. He was, however, confident that the merger would not in any way affect his airline.

    On the competition posed by budget carriers, he opined that there was enough space for normal and budget carriers, as they catered to the interests of separate sets of passengers.

    Asked about the prospects of launching services from Kozhikode, Mr. Sharma said the airline wanted to further consolidate its position in Kochi and Thiruvananthapuram before branching out. He, however, said the airline was encouraged by its performance in Kerala and would further boost the operations from the State.