New Delhi, Dec 15 () : Indian aviation showman C R Gopinath, the man who introduced low-cost airlines, has now put up his shuttle service for sale.
He was running a shuttle service in Gujarat for Hindu pilgrims visiting shrines. The service has run into heavy losses. According to aviation industry, Deccan Shuttles has not paid its employees for last one year and many have left while others were sacked.
Gopinath entered aviation with Deccan Charters in 1997 offering chartered service for businessmen and politicians. Air Deccan was started in 2003, a no-frills low-cost airline. A first in Indian aviation, it offered ticket for Re 1 (other charges were collected apart from it). This created a flutter and had all those whose dream is to fly crowd the booking counters of Air Deccan.
Though this had a dampening effect on the airfares, Air Deccan ran into financial trouble. After four years of operation, it was bought by Vijay Mallaya who merged it with Kingfisher and operated its low-cost wing.
Two years later he started Deccan 360 a cargo service and operated it for two years and shut it down. This year he started Deccan Shuttles that ferried pilgrims and businessmen in Gujarat. Shri Mata Vaishno Devi Shrine Board banned Deccan Shuttles from operating in Vaishno Devi and Amarnath for having obsolete fleet of copters.
It used to make 7 shuttles a day and earned Rs 5 cr a month. Gopinath who had in a meeting with officials of airlines at a seminar alleged that there was a cartel operating in fixing fares.
11 helicopters and five turboprops owned by Deccan Shuttles are entrusted with Flight Source International of the US and Sweden’s Savback Helicopters to sell the aircraft. Gopinath however denies that there is any financial difficulty. He says his fleet is 20 years old and is selling them to buy new ones. He says a lot of private copters and small planes owned by companies are being rented out when not in use and these operations could not be matched by his fleet.