Hyderabad: Indian aviation is on the cusp of realising a long-cherished dream of being able to provide air travel services to the hinterland that was once a fiefdom for other slower and inefficient modes of travel.
The government’s initiative of making air transport services available to un-served or under-served airports through the Regional Connectivity Scheme (RCS) will be the real catalyst making the nation the third largest aviation market globally by 2020 and the largest by 2030. The one and the only airline company based in Hyderabad, Turbo Megha Airways that operates the air carrier Trujet, has foreseen the need gap in regional connectivity long back and had been catering to several un-served markets since its inception.
Trujet, a regional air carrier promoted by Turbo Megha Airways connects between important business and religious destinations. With a fleet of ATR-72 aircraft, the airline currently operates to eight destination including Hyderabad, Aurangabad, Bengaluru, Chennai, Goa, Rajahmundry, Vijayawada and Tirupati. It is the only airline to operate on Hyderabad-Aurangabad route.
Founded by Vankayalapati Umesh, an engineering graduate (mechanical) from JNTU Hyderabad having more than 20 years of experience in aviation industry, Trujet started its journey in March 2013 with an aim to cater to temple tourism and address regional connectivity.
Most of the temple towns have also grown in size and the company wants to create capacities to cater to the passengers from these places. This approach on niche markets has helped the company to stabilise its operations in the industry that is always characterised by turbulence and tough competition. The company, which has clocked Rs 180 crore turnover is expecting to cross Rs 200 crore-mark this year.
The company forayed into the aviation sector when other bigger airline companies were struggling to sustain their business. It currently operates four ATR72-600 aircraft with the fifth aircraft about to be added to its fleet by the first week of September. By the 2019, the company will have 15 aircraft in its fleet.
Vankayalapati Umesh, founder and managing director, Turbo Megha Airways, told Telangana Today, “Tier-2 and tier-3 cities in the country are becoming key markets for all airlines. We have seen our passenger load factor (PLF) at about 85 per cent consistently. With my experience in the industry, I have realised that aviation is a very long-term business and one needs to be patient to scale up operations. We had been focusing on innovations to ensure that and create our own identity. For instance, we are the only airline that has tried creating a flying kitchen, a first of its kind effort in the Indian aviation.”
Besides the eight locations it caters to, the airline now connects Nanded and Cuddapah which are RCS sectors and Trujet is the only airline in these sectors as well. Turbo Megha is one of the five air operators which won bids to operate on 128 routes connecting 70 airports, of which 31 are un-served under the regional connectivity scheme- Ude Desh Ka Aam Nagrik (UDAN), where fares are capped at Rs 2,500 for one-hour flights.
Under UDAN, the company has obtained licence to operate in 18 routes providing the opportunity to expand its operations across India by adding routes such as Bidar, Mysore, Salem, Hosur and Vidyanagar. The subsidy Centre offers under this scheme is going to help improve the company’s revenues and make regional connectivity viable. Services to the new routes could be possible by November this year, he adds.
The company in May this year received the Air Operator Certificate (AOC) from aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) which will enable it to expand flight services to all metros. Incidentally, Trujet is the first airline in the country to be awarded scheduled commuter operator (SCO) permit and can now connect Nanded – Bombay route under the UDAN scheme.
Umesh said, “We will now connect the under-served cities with the big metros and contribute towards the overall economic growth. Under the category, air operators are allowed to operate with aircraft having a maximum All Up Weight (AUW) not exceeding 40 tonnes.”