The evolution of of Budget/ low cost airlines in India

Photo courtesy: Col. Samuel, Co-founder, Air Deccan

When we talk of Budget Airlines in India, the first that comes up to mind is Air Deccan. It was truly the pioneer of budget airlines in India.

2003: Two retired Indian Army Officers who had fought the ’71 war, Lt Col KJ Samuel and Captain Gopinath, teamed up in Bangalore, to launch India’s first budget/low-cost airline, Air Deccan. Simplify was Air Deccan’s tag line. It had a fleet of 45 aircraft acquired in a mere 48 months.

The jets (acquired in the first year) too, were  flying along with the their passengers – mostly first time fliers, to 67 destinations in India. Many such destinations were seeing an aircraft for the first time in nearly 60 years. In its urge to expand the promoters diluted their stakes considerably, and in 2007-8, United Breweries acquired majority stakes. (Air Deccan pioneered the concept of advertising on the plane wings and tail as well as in the interior.

The resultant change in mission statement sounded the death-knell of the pioneer, but not before inspiring a lot of entrepreneurs across the country to get into the low cost airline business. Indigo, SpiceJet, Go Air, Air India Express….

The two aims of Air Deccan still prevail:

  • To connect every nook and corner of the country by air
  • To reduce the price of air tickets to such a low, that it will never rise again to pre-2003 levels

Air Deccan’s smart, young flight attendants

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