Well, the merry-go- rounds and Ferris wheels are not quite revved up, not with just one aircraft and having taken off only this July. But if my Air Carnival experience on the Chennai- Coimbatore sector is anything to go by, travellers could well have a fun choice on ‘the-air’ hands
To begin at the beginning: When the round ticket was first booked, I was a thrown by the name of the carrier. I had not heard of it. The reaction of the resident travel expert at work was: “What? Carnival-a?” OMG. Nobody knew anything but I was too much of a wimp to question the decision, so come d-day and I was off to Kamaraj domestic airport at 10 of the am.
My spirits lifted upon seeing the cheerful pink Air Carnival logo and the short line at check-in (now, this is the passenger speaking, not the airline – see the difference?); The relaxed demeanour of the staff was a bonus.
The request for a window seat was granted without ado (I had just been on another trip on another carrier and had been denied a window seat on the ground that none was available when in fact the one at the other end of my row was free).
“And not on the wing, if you don’t mind,” I added. “Sure,” came the response. This was the case both ways – to and from Coimbatore.
And both times, passengers were ushered up into the aircraft by a very pleasant steward (no plastic smiles here) and all the announcements were made in a warm, friendly, unassuming manner.
The best bit, though, was that meals were served on board. It was simple fare: a light pulao with mashed dal and a tasty whole aubergine-in- gravy side dish (this was the veg bit; on the to journey there was non-veg, but on the return they seemed to have run out of it), two gulab jamuns , fruit juice and water. No coffee/tea, though. But it was not missed on the short flight.
The AI bus service conveyed us across the concourse and it was only when the aircraft came into view (on the to trip) that realisation dawned: this planes had wings above the windows! When I returned to work and spoke glowingly about the service to the aforementioned travel expert, he asked what aircraft it was, and then laughed sardonically at my ignorance.
Since then I’ve checked: it was an ATR-72- 500, not that that matters except for the fact that wings don’t block your view. But for the record, it is “a twin-engine turboprop short-haul” aircraft manufactured by the French-Italian ATR. It seats about 70-80 people, and offers a single class. Totally democratic, just the way I like it.
After its maiden launch on July 18 from Coimbatore to Chennai, Chennai to Madurai and Madurai to Chennai and Chennai to Coimbatore, the Air Carnival has launched the same day return flights in the evening in the sector from September 1.
Announcing this at a press conference here on Saturday, Chief Executive Officer Manish Kumar Singh said that the Air Carnival which was currently flying out from Coimbatore at 6.55 a.m. and returned by 1.20 p.m. after covering Chennai and Madurai, would leave at 4.45 p.m. from Coimbatore and return at 11 p.m.
Thus, passengers can return the same day. He said that the Air Carnival promoters were from Coimbatore and its chairman S.I. Nathan was primarily into education industry having marine institutions in Coimbatore, Mangalore, Chennai and Mumbai.
The company, he said, had launched ATR 72-500 type aircrafts and maintained “on-time every time” operations till now.
“Our aim is to cover all the airports in Tamil Nadu in the next 24 to 36 months. Right now, we are examining the possibilities of operating services to cities like Thoothukudi, Tiruchi in Tamil Nadu and Rajahmundry in Andhra Pradesh.
The Air Carnival is keen on catering to all segments of fliers and expansion would be a continuous process, he added.
Welcoming the additional flights from the Air Carnival, frequent travellers from Madurai to Chennai and Coimbatore said that it reflected that there was potential in this sector. On an average, the flight was 80 per cent occupied daily.
The airline should look at a long-term operation and ensure that flights were maintained on time and there were no cancellations or changes or disruption in timings.
Travel Club members hoped that the new airline’s timing and fare continued to attract more passengers. They may consider extending their flight service to Thoothukudi as Spice Jet alone catered on the route presently, the members opined.
Air Carnival's maiden flight will take off on July 18. The airline plans to focus on short haul services with its ATR72-500. The promoters are infusing around $12 million to take three aircrafts on lease.
Manish Kumar Singh, chief executive officer, Air Carnival, told Business Standard that the airline said first flight will be on the Coimbatore-Chennai-Madurai sectors.
While it kept Re 1 as fare for the first flight, for the first three months it kept the tariff as Rs 999.
The airline will have daily services for 10 sectors, including three daily flights from Chennai to Coimbatore (up and down) and two daily flights from Chennai to Madurai (up and down).
The 70 seater aircrafts are more economical for short haul services, said Singh.
The airline will start with one aircraft and will add the second by September end and third by October. Once the new aircrafts are inducted, it will look at Bangalore, Tirupathi, Hubli and Trivandrum to expand.
For the next one year, the company will focus on the Southern Indian market and later it will look at the Northern markets.
The airline said around 25-30% would be new routes, in which no other airline is operating.
For example, the airline is contemplating to start a service between Coimbatore and temple town of Tirupathi in Andhra Pradesh. Similarly, it is also planning to start a service between Chennai and Mysore.
The promoter CMC Group will infuse around $12-15 million (of which $5 million has already been invested) initially, which will fund to acquire atleast 3-5 aircrafts.
"Once we stablise, we will look to raise money from investors," said Singh, who is confident that the airline will break even in 2.5 years.
"This is the right time to start operations since demand is high and fuel prices have also dropped," said Singh. He noted, earlier fuel cost used to be around 50% of the total cost, which has now dropped to around 30-35%.
The airline is targeting around 80-85% load factor and target customers include first time travellers, business men, people who travel on holiday and leisure and others. "One class cannot fetch business fully, we need to target all types of travellers to have the load factor which we are targeting," said Singh.
Air Carnival is the sister concern of CMC (Coimbatore Marine College) Group of institution, established in 2002 in Coimbatore and is in the field of education for the last 12 years. S Irudaya Nathan, founder and director of CMC Group, established Air Carnival Charter Services, in New Delhi in 2013, offering charter services in India.
Increasingly, the southern market is becoming a hub for RScheduled Airlines. Religare Aviation had started one in the North, but it closed shop soon after opening due to poor demand.
Of all the new airlines, Vistara is the only one not based in the south. AirAsia India, Pegasus, Fly Easy, Air Carnival, TurboMegha's TruJet, and Air Costa are all based in the south. This is because of the promise the region holds.
Hyderabad and Bangalore are greenfield airports, better planned and this allows the new airports to support new airlines better through better infrastructure and sops. South has lucrative cities including Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Cochin and others. No other region is this attractive, says analysts.
COIMBATORE: The first Coimbatore-based airline -- Air Carnival -- promises an international flight experience on a low cost flight.
Passengers will not only be given a complementary full-meal but also in-flight entertainment which includes music, movies and television shows.
The airline, which will see its flight take off from the Coimbatore International Airport commercially for the first time on Monday (July 18), also plans to price its tickets low.
Air Carnival, which got its air permit on July 4, has decided to take on their competitors head on by introducing a promotional base fare of Re 1 on the first day of operations and an all-inclusive fare of Rs 999 for the first three months.
"On the first day, tickets on all the four flights, Coimbatore to Chennai and back and Chennai to Madurai and back, will be priced at Re 1 plus taxes," said the airline's CEO, Manish Kumar Singh.
"The tickets will then be priced at an all-inclusive fare of Rs 999 for the first three months—July 19 to October 18," he said. "We are doing this to draw passengers in to in turn experience flying with us," he added.
The airline has also confirmed that it plans to model itself along the low-cost airlines in the country. "Even after the initial three months, our tickets will be priced competitively, though we can't reveal our base prices" said Singh.
"Like other airlines, we will take up dynamic pricing to balance out the costing," he said.
Officials said tickets have already opened on its website www.aircarnival.in and other travel agents like www.cleartrip.com. "We have tied up with MakeMy Trip, Yatra and Akbar travels and will be integrated into their options by Friday," he said.
The airline, which currently has only one leased aircraft, plans to introduce flights from Chennai to Bangalore and back in another three weeks.
"Currently our operations begin at 6.55am in Coimbatore and wind up at 1.20pm. But once we include flights to Bangalore and back from Chennai, our operations time will be extended," said Singh.
he said."We then plan to add flights to Thiruvananthapuram, Mangalore, Hubli and Mysore from both Chennai and Coimbatore, depending on our market surveys," he added
The airline, which will operate six days a week for the first fortnight, is expected to operate all seven days of the week within the first month of launch.
At a time when biggies like SpiceJet are bleeding, a Coimbatore-based start-up airline has its flight plan charted out. Air Carnival, which got a no-objection certificate from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) in June for the southern region, is aiming at a launch by March-April 2015.
In an exclusive interview with FE, Manish Kumar Singh, CEO, Air Carnival, said that despite the turbulence in the aviation industry, their plan was intact and on course. “Our project stands good for a March-April commencement. I don’t see any challenge, rather we foresee potential growth in the aviation sector. Our focus is towards micro-management, small route operation, and on-time and customer-friendly services,” said Singh. The company plans to start operations with two ATR 72-500 aircraft and aims to have a fleet of five planes by the end of 2015.
Air Carnival, which says it is close to clinching its aircraft deal, is already an established player in air charter services. The company was founded in 2013 in New Delhi by SI Nathan, chairman of the CMC Group of Institutions whose colleges offer marine and aeronautical professional courses in southern India. The charter airline is also a key player in air ambulance services.
“We are very close to securing our aircraft deal and are expecting it in the next few weeks. Our set-up for engineering, commercial, security and operations is under progress at different operating locations and is expected to be completed well in time and prior to induction of the aircraft,” said Singh. The airline’s operating base will be in Coimbatore and it plans to provide point-to-point connectivity in southern India.
“We have identified virgin routes as well, in addition to conventional ones,” he said. “We have been granted initial NOC for regional scheduled airline in south India. We will connect tier-1, tier-2 as well as tier-3 cities to provide better connectivity in remote areas,” Singh said. “Passenger growth is good in spite of the bad phase in the industry. The government is cutting taxes on fuel, fuel prices are dipping and lessors are looking towards India as prospective market — I take all this as a good sign for starting up,” he said. Asked whether the company is looking at a foreign airline partner or PE investor, Singh said that there were no such plans as of now.
On how the business model will be different from other airlines, most of which are loss-making, Singh said: “Our main focus will be towards un-served and poorly served sector to enhance air connectivity through the entire southern region.”