Monday 20 August 2012


Gujarat has nine airports, but its air connectivity sucks. Seriously. You can fly to Mumbai from all the airports, but what about travelling between them? You can't. There are no air services between cities such as Ahmedabad, Bhavnagar, Jamnagar, Surat and Kandla. That means Mumbai is just over an hour away from Ahmedabad, but Surat and Porbander are separated by about 13 hours.

Not long ago, it took two separate planes to get to Mysore from Delhi. These days, your best bet is hopping off a plane at Bangalore and enjoying or enduring, depending on the traffic, a three-hour drive. Reason: Mysore has an airport but no flights. As anyone trying to fly between the smaller cities in India is certain to experience, it's not easy to get from here to there and back. Travel often becomes an odyssey. To start with, there are those endless queues, delays and security hassles at airports. Outside, the misery of traffic jams lurks.

For a country of its size, we have to make do with only five and a half airlines (some would say even that is being kind to Kingfisher Airlines). They can't fly everywhere partly because of poor infrastructure and partly out of choice. Flying itself has become expensive. Whatever happened to those Rs 1 and Rs 99 tickets. Heck, whatever happened to those Rs 2,500 tickets.

It shouldn't be surprising then that travel in India often turns out to be a travail. But the most vexing part has to be the sheer lack of connectivity. Even states such as Himachal Pradesh and Uttarakhand, which are key tourist destinations, have negligible air services to their many scenic and religious attractions, according to the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, a leading consultancy.

Captain GR Gopinath, the man who gave us the Rs 1 ticket with his Air Deccan, is about to address the problem in Gujarat. On Monday, he will launch a regional airline in the state. His Deccan Shuttle will start 12 flights a day between the nine cities using five 12-seater Grand Caravans.

Shekhar Gupta
Capt. Shekhar Gupta [ Pilot, DIAM, M.Ae.S.I., MAOPA [USA] ] 
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