Now, LCCs to woo religious travellers

Mumbai, Sept 29 | Updated: Sep 30 2006, 05:30am hrs
Low cost carriers (LCCs) plan to engage Indian Railways in yet another battle for travellers' attention with their plan to introduce packages for the religious traveller, which, till now, was the exclusive domain of the railways. India's first low-cost carrier Air Deccan is in talks with several state governments, including Madhya Pradesh and Andhra Pradesh, to bundle religious places as a package tour.

While all the airlines focus on leisure travellers, a vast market for devotees remains untapped. We hope to start a packaged tour to holy places including Shirdi, Puri, Tirupati and Vaishnodevi among others in the next 2-3 months", said Air Deccan chief revenue officer John Kuruvilla. Interestingly, while several new entrants are set to woo religious and leisure travellers.

A Mumbai-based car rental service operator and vehicle asset management company City Group is planning to float a low cost airline for high value cargo and pilgrimage charter.

City Group's managing director S M Masood said, We have already applied to the DGCA and are in the process of being granted approval. The service, to be named City Airlines, has already bought a Beechcraft B-200 for the service, he added. Other carriers are also waiting and watching. SpiceJet chief executive officer Siddhanta Sharma said, Currently, we are not considering any such move since the infrastructure is not adequate at places of pilgrimage. We would wait till the infrastructure bottlenecks are resolved. Kapil Kaul, CEO, Indian Subcontinent and Middle East, Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), said, Religious package tours hold tremendous potential especially for a low-cost carrier since AC trains in those places are few in numbers. As LCCs target train passengers, this move would result in opening up of a new market altogether.