The travel boom set off by the end of the Covid-19 pandemic is seeing action in every mode of transport, from roads to rail and, of course, flights. But while the Indian Railways are using the opportunity to push the new Vande Bharat Expresses with premium facilities and premium prices, a number of small airlines are still trying to find their bearings after the sector nosedived during the pandemic. One entrepreneur who is waiting to take off is Manoj Chacko, former vice-president of the now-defunct Kingfisher Airlines. Chacko, CEO of the recently registered Fly91, from India’s telephone dialling code, has seen it all. Air Deccan, the forerunner in the field that made flying affordable to all, took off well but made the mistake of going in for Airbus aircraft too early. “They should have stuck to the ATR with which they began,” he says. “Introducing a mixed fleet compelled them to compete in a different space.” Kingfisher’s acquisition of Deccan was a “big mistake”, says Chacko, who quit soon after. “Vijay Mallya called me back after three years, but too much water had already flowed under the bridge by then.” Flying to Hubli, Kolhapur and smaller places was not an issue, but the attempt to go international was the killer, he says. His new airline, headquartered in Goa, will operate small 76-seater aircraft from October 2023, with a plan to go national gradually in about five years. “We’ll be playing a test match, and aim to replace short rail journeys of 10 to 12 hours,” he explains, adding: “We won’t get into the ‘cheapest fare’ race: our fares will compare with those for the railways’ 2nd-class AC. We will pay salaries comparable to, say Indigo but keep a low-cost structure with neutral distribution channels and a consumer-friendly booking app.” Happy flying!