Capt GR Gopinath: "Future is low cost connectivity"

Air Deccan founder and managing director, Capt GR Gopinath, talks about the carrier's growth in India's booming aviation industry in an exclusive, free-wheeling interview with domain-b's Aviation & Aerospace. By Rajiv Singh

I am grateful to the French Government for according this prestigious honour to me. This award is for my colleagues and friends who have stood with the company in testing times. I dreamt of launching low-cost air travel when I realised that reforms had come to stay in India and it was irreversible. I was sure that my country was destined for great times.

You would have launched Air Deccan with certain hopes and expectations at a personal level, and also, with some perceptions regarding the country's civil aviation sector. How far have these hopes and expectations been fulfilled or belied?

Almost four years ago a solitary aircraft took off from Bangalore airport bringing much needed air connectivity to Hubli, a small town in Karnataka. That aircraft carried with it a few passengers, the cynicism of many skeptics -- and also a PROMISE. A promise, to bring air travel within the reach of the common man by providing low fares and enhanced connectivity. Also, as that aircraft took off into a clear sky, it carried with it the hopes and dreams of a billion Indians.

Today, almost four years later, Air Deccan has grown into a fleet of 43 aircraft, and has carried close to 11 million passengers already. Through its journey, it has been instrumental in changing the aviation skyscape, and also, the economic landscape of India forever.

The number of aircraft flying in Indian skies is projected to grow, from the current 300, to 500 by 2010 and to 1,000 by 2020. Do you think this will occur? If so, what would be the drivers for such a phenomenal growth in numbers?

Our experience has shown that we have underestimated the Indian market in terms of demand. New air carriers are constantly generating new demand and stimulating more travel. It is estimated that by 2023 there will be a market for 570 more aircraft in India and this may have to be further revised upwards. Passenger traffic is expected to go up by at least 250% by the year 2010. People are traveling more by air and are migrating from other modes of transport.