Air Pegasus investing Rs.100 crore to spread wings

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Bengaluru, April 14 (IANS) Low-cost career Air Pegasus would invest Rs.100 crore in 2016-17 to expand operations and connect more cities across south India, a top official said on Thursday.

“The investment will be in addition to Rs.100 crore we have invested to launch our operations in the first year with three ATR aircraft, connecting five intra and inter-state cities,” Pegasus managing director Shyson Thomas told reporters here.

The city-based feeder airline firm will begin a thrice weekly service from Bengaluru to Puducherry on April 25, daily to Panaji (Goa) from April 27 and soon to Kochi (Kerala) and Vijayawada (Andhra Pradesh).

“We are acquiring an additional five 70-seater ATRs this year on dry lease to connect more cities and expand our service to fly more people to places that remain unconnected in south India,” said Thomas.

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The airline plans to connect Belagavi (Karnataka), Tuticorin (Tamil Nadu) and Rajamundry and Tirupathi (Andhra Pradesh) from Bengaluru later this year.

The year-old regional airline offers daily feeder service from Bengaluru to Hubballi and Mangaluru in Karnataka, Chennai and Madurai in Tamil Nadu and Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala.

“We have suspended our service (weekly thrice) to Kadapa in Andhra Pradesh from Bengaluru due to poor patronage on the route,” Thomas admitted.

The airline also operates a daily service from Chennai to Madurai and back.

With 82 percent plane load factor, the airline has flown 280,000 passengers during its first year of operations (April 2015-March 2016).

“We had to hire foreign pilots to operate our aircraft due to shortage of Indian pilots for the ATR fleet, as most of the pilots who were with Kingfisher Airlines joined Indigo even as first officers for job continuity,” Thomas said.

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Admitting that the airline benefitted from lower jet fuel price and competitive fares, he said rupee depreciation during the last fiscal had offset the savings on fuel cost, as its payment on leasing aircraft, spare parts and servicing them were in dollars.

The airline, whose brand is named after the winged stallion from Greek mythology (Pegasus), has permit to launch service to and from any of the 22 airports across south India, connecting tier-two and tier-three cities with cities and metros like Chennai and Hyderabad.

Though the southern region has 30 functional airports, all of them are not connected yet, as full-fledged, budget carrier and other low-cost airlines operate between metros and cities, leaving tier-two cities unconnected.

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