Making a strong a bid to strengthen its nationwide network, Air India plans to launch a feeder service -- India Hopper -- with about 40 small aircraft as early as by March next year.
Top officials said the service will be operated under the Air Operator Permit of the Air India Regional or Alliance Air, which was a subsidiary of the erstwhile Indian Airlines.
"We are currently fine-tuning the blue-print. And if everything goes as per schedule, the proposed service may be launched as early as this fiscal-end," an official close to the development told PTI.
As per the proposal, India Hopper will offer flight services in a radius of 700 km with about 40 ATR turboprop planes and Canadian Regional Jets (CRJs) from five bases in Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Kolkata and Hyderabad.
"Our objective is to provide enhanced connectivity on various regional routes and a kind of one-stop connectivity to the customers. Therefore, the routes that were chosen are designed in such a way that these would get covered in hour's time," the official said.
The service will cover over 115 destinations like Chandigarh, Kullu, Shimla, Tirupati, Mysore, Udaipur, Kota, Bhopal, Agartala, Bagdogra, Silchar and Ranchi.
"Air India Regional currently has 7 ATRs and 4 CRJs in the fleet. We are looking at having another 21 ATR and 20 CRJs in the fleet," the official said.
The airline is yet to take a decision on whether it should lease or acquire these aircraft, they said.
The move is part of the several revenue enhancement proposals which it is forwarding to the government as part of its turnaround plan.
Based on these proposals to tap business opportunities and cut costs, the government is likely to infuse Rs 1,200 crore as equity to help Air India meet its financial commitments, mostly repaying loans and interests for aircraft acquisition.