Mumbai: Kochi-based Emric Aviation Pvt. Ltd plans to start a helicopter charter service for tourists visiting Kerala, after having waited long in the wings for a licence to operate as a regional airline.
The Union government has put on hold new licences for regional airlines, which were meant to serve smaller cities and towns not on the radar of bigger carriers, because of the turmoil in domestic aviation stemming from high jet fuel costs.
Regulatory restrictions and delays in obtaining licences have also hamstrung aspiring regional carriers.
“We have not at all dropped the idea of starting regional operations,” said Muhaimin Saidu, chief executive of Emric Air. “We have cleared all necessary requirements including aircraft acquisitions. We will start regional operations with fixed-wing planes once we get final go-ahead from the civil aviation ministry.”
Emric Air, the brand name for both the airline and helicopter charter operations, plans to acquire Bombardier planes manufactured by Canada’s Bombardier Inc.
While it waits for a regional airline licence, Emric Aviation, promoted by entrepreneur Martin Sebastian, will start flying helicopters to Munnar and Wayanad, popular for their lush plantations and wildlife sanctuaries, Kovalam, known for its beaches, and the state’s capital Thiruvananthapuram.
Kerala offers a spread of plantations, forests, hill stations, beaches and backwaters, and is one of the fastest growing tourist destinations in the country.
The bigger cities and towns, such as Thiruvananthapuram, Kochi and Kovalam, can be reached by rail, but hill stations such as Munnar and inner destinations such as Wayanad are now accessible only by road.
“There are no dedicated helicopter operators in the state as of now. We wanted to tap this huge opportunity,” said Saidu, who’s also eyeing the growing population of software employees in Kerala after the state started setting up information technology parks.
The business model has attracted comparisons with Bangalore-based Deccan Aviation Ltd. The company, which was acquired by billionaire Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines last year, runs low-cost airline Simplifly Deccan and also has a charter division operating helicopters and small planes.