Air Deccan, a small regional airline that was once India’s largest low-cost carrier, has become the first airline in the country to fall victim to the coronavirus pandemic.
Cirium fleets data shows the airline has just two 19-seater Beechcraft 1900Ds but once boasted Airbus narrowbodies and ATR turboprops. It announced on Sunday it is ceasing operations until further notice, according to local media reports.
Air Deccan could not be reached for comment and its website was not functioning at the time of publication.
The airline was founded by GR Gopinath, dubbed in one television interview as “the man who got India’s middle class to fly”.
The airline got off to an ill-fated start in 2003, having to abandon its inaugural flight carrying Indian dignitaries due to an engine fire during taxi. Despite that, it managed to grow its fleet and route network, and in 2008 completed a merger with now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines.
Under its new owner, Air Deccan was rechristened Kingfisher Red, but its high operating costs and low yields proved to be a drag on Kingfisher. In 2011 Kingfisher, which not long after went belly up, decided to phase out Kingfisher Red.
Gopinath managed to retain the name Air Deccan by registering for it soon after the rebranding, Forbes India reports. Air Deccan made a comeback in December 2017 when it was granted a flying permit from India’s civil aviation regulator to conduct flights under the country’s regional connectivity scheme called UDAN, according to local media reports at the time. The first three routes were from Mumbai to Nashik, Pune and Jalgaon, according to Forbes India.
Cirium fleets data shows that the airline owns both of its aircraft. The more than 18-year-old turboprops started life with Eagle Airways, a defunct subsidiary of Air New Zealand.