The war with Pakistan fought in 1971… then made air travel to people for just 1 rupee… This story is very interesting.
16 years before today, when you have heard about traveling by airplane for just one rupee, then it must have been hard to believe. Even today, air travel has become very cheap. But maybe a decade and a half ago, it was like a dream for the common man. In such a situation, when the plan was launched by airplane at the cost of just one samosa, then everyone just started talking about it. This dream scheme was launched by Captain GR Gopinath for a flight of one rupee. At the same time, it is being discussed a lot these days. Because his story is being shown in the film 'Udaan' on an online stream platform.
It was the effort of GR Gopinath, a retired army officer turned businessman, who has been transformed into a dream by air travel today. He has been the founder of Air Deccan, the country's first budget airline. This airline could run only for two years. Captain Gopinath envisioned it on the lines of European budget carriers such as EasyJet and Ryan Air. 16 years ago Captain Gopinath provided tickets to people at half the rate as compared to rival airline companies.
Wings to dreams
Captain Gopinath gave the concept of dynamic pricing to Indian Airlines companies. Through this, the early travelers could get a chance to travel for one rupee on the basis of 'first come, first serve'. Those who booked tickets late or at the last minute had to pay higher ticket rates. This price was also much lower than the rest of the airlines. After this scheme, customers began to be seen on the booking counters.
Critics, however, said then that such a scheme could ruin the industry. Captain Gopinath wrote in his autobiography, 'One rupee ticket gave wings to the imagination of many people and it became a matter of discussion everywhere.' He believed that his airline not only broke the price barrier but also eliminated caste and class differences in India.
Flying experience given to every Indian
The film 'Udaan', released on Amazon Prime, has been produced by Academy Award winner Gunit Monga. The Tamil title of the film is praised by Soorai Potaru i.e. Veer. Tamil star Surya has played the role of Gopinath in it. According to Guneet Monga, the producer of the film, Gopinath gave Indians a chance to experience flying at a low cost. The film shows how Captain Gopinath used 500 airports and airstrips in the country for connectivity which were lying idle for years.
Wife's dream come true
His wife Bhargavi also helped to make his dream come true. Wife Bhargavi helped her husband with the help of his small backing business when he was struggling with shortage of funds. Apart from this, his friends of the army also helped to convert this dream into reality. Captain Gopinath's father was a teacher and farmer and mother was a homemaker. Born in a small village in southern Karnataka, Captain Gopinath also served in the army.
1971 war fought against Pakistan
He was fulfilling his duty for the country during the 1971 India-Pakistan war. But at the age of just 28, he took retirement. He wanted to do something different. With the help of his friends, he tried his hand in many businesses including silk production and hospitality. Captain Gopinath said in an interview to the BBC, "As a youth I used to be restless and a crazy man who was crazy about the idea of providing money to everyone." His friends told him that it is necessary to not only dream but also sell them.
How did the idea of cheap airline
In 1997, he started helicopter service with India's first charter company. Its tagline was, 'You show us a place in the map, we will take you there.' Low-cost airlines in India started in the year 2000 when it was the holiday season in the US. In the beginning, he started a local airport. In 2003, he went to America and Captain Gopinath was here at Phoenix Airport. Here he saw how 1,000 flights and 100,000 passengers are handled daily. He was surprised. It was difficult to manage 450 flights a day at airports in India.
Air Deccan's first flight
After coming from America, he started thinking that why no one pays attention to the people of Middle Class in India? Why are consumers not being thought of like FMGC and auto sectors? The result of this thinking was that the first flight of Air Deccan took off on 24 September 2004. This flight, operated between Hyderabad to Vijayawada, changed India's aviation sector forever.
By the year 2007, the airline was operating 380 flights a day and it was operating from 67 airports. There were also 45 planes in the fleet and the number of passengers had increased from 2,000 to 25,000. With the help of Air Deccan, 30 lakh Indians enjoyed traveling by airplane for just 1 rupee.
The company had to sell in 2007
Air Deccan also had to struggle a lot due to its dream of air travel at cheaper rates. The airline was incurring losses. In 2007, Captain Gopinath sold his company to Kingfisher. Kingfisher owner Vijay Mallya changed the name of Air Deccan to Kingfisher Red.
In September 2011, Vijay Mallya discontinued Kingfisher Red. In an interview, Gopinath said that Mallya never had time for his airline. Gopinath was saddened by the closure of Air Deccan, but the dream of Air Deccan continues and the number of budget airlines in the country is increasing.