Ventura Airconnect has launched the first intrastate, non-scheduled airline in the central Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. It operates twice daily flights between different city pairs within the state. From its bases at Bhopal and Indore, the airline connects Jabalpur, Gwalior, Khajuraho, Agra, Satna, Rewa and tiger resort destinations of Kanha and Bhandavgarh.
Uttam Bose, founder of Air Sahara, the domestic airline that was later bought and integrated into Jet Airways, serves as the managing director of Ventura Airconnect. He was looking for an investment, but “I didn’t want to invest in a regular airline that gobbles a lot of money,” he told AIN. “Connecting smaller cities within the state seemed a good option, as many people residing in mid-level towns are willing to spend more to save on travel time.” Tourists can also benefit from these services.
The company has invested $3 million and currently has three nine-seat Cessna Grand Caravans fitted with glass cockpits. It leases the aircraft from Cessna Finance Corp. and uses a DGCA-approved, third-party MRO for maintenance.
Ventura plans to field a fleet of 19 aircraft in three years. It will then be able to fly nearly five million passengers per year with each aircraft making an average of eight trips a day.
The government of Madhya Pradesh will underwrite three to four seats on every flight for three years and refund the value added tax (VAT) on fuel for five years, under a memorandum of understanding it signed with Ventura.
Ventura Airconnect faced several challenges in starting up operations. Among them: getting the “schedules approved by the airport authorities, especially at airfields controlled by defense headquarters,” and significant airport fees that add to the company’s cost of operations, according to Bose.
Airports impose significant fees beyond the “watch hour,” an hour before or after the departure of a scheduled airline. According to Bose, “These hourly charges by Airport Authority of India [AAI] are ten times higher than those [for operations] happening within the watch hour.”
Fares on Ventura start at $29 (Rs 1500) per trip. The company is in talks with other state governments to extend its service area. “We’ll have at least two bases in each state of operation,” said Bose.