Air Mantra, a regional carrier, took wings with its first flights on the Amritsar – Chandigarh and return segments yesterday (23rd July). Owned by the Religare guys, Air Mantra is taking a vastly different strategy so far in terms of airlines currently operating in India, by operating very small planes on routes which connect smaller cities and avoiding the trunk routes altogether.
The airline has been assigned the IATA code of M1, although I cannot seem to find their registered code on the IATA website, and they were granted a scheduled operator permit on 1st June 2012.
The airline is using turboprop Beechcraft 1900D planes, of which it has 2 of these currently to serve routes which would not be expected to be of interest to the national carriers in India. Each of these has been customised to have 17 passenger seats and 2 crewmembers, with two round trip operations between these city pairs (one in the morning, one evening). Needless to say, these are all-economy flights and no meal service inflight. Here is the schedule of initial operations:
M16001 ATQ0720 – 0810IXC BEC D
M16002 IXC0850 – 0940ATQ BEC D
M16003 ATQ1800 – 1850IXC BEC D
M16004 IXC1930 – 2020ATQ BEC D
The airline intends to add Jammu and Dharamshala as the next two destinations in its fold. Here is a visual of the how the plane will look from the inside via www.airmantra.com, and quite frankly, to me it reminds of the various mail carrier planes I see at airline museums, some of the first planes to start carrying passengers.
However, pricing seems to be at a premium already, and a round trip on this route was pricing at INR 7,000 Rs. for a ticket I tried pricing more than 2 months out, even though the distance between the two cities is only 138 flown miles. The website stated the obvious low-fares for booking 21 days out, but seems either there was too much demand and so the low fares are all gone, or the Rs. 1000 fares were just a promotional gimmick.
From the past we’ve seen a lot of airlines starting up in India but getting distracted from their own stated vision by wanting to employ bigger planes a few days, weeks or months down the line. So, will this airline survive the lure and glamour of flying bigger planes and stick to its business plan for the long run? We have to wait and watch!