Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines is starting a chopper shuttle from four or five points in Mumbai to the airport and back for first class passengers and frequent fliers.
“It takes hours for passengers, braving monstrous traffic, to reach the airport. We are introducing instant connectivity so that they can reach the airport or be dropped from there to business districts within minutes at a marginal cost,” Mallya told HT.
Figuring that it takes longer to reach Santa Cruz airport from Cuffe Parade than to fly to Ahmedabad or any neighbouring state capital, Kingfisher will pick up passengers from nodes like Cuffe Parade, Nariman Point, Mahalaxmi and even decommissioned aircraft carrier INS Vikrant. Check-in and baggage check-in will be done at the helipad itself. Initially, the service is on offer only for the VIP category, at 20 to 30 per cent of the fare.
The government-owned Pawan Hans will be used for the charter service. Kingfisher is also negotiating with European manufacturer Eurocopter for five Dauphin 365N3s.
The plan is similar to the one by Club One Air in India, an aircraft ‘fractional ownership’ company. However, Kingfisher will be the first scheduled airline to pursue it.
The Cuffe Parade Residents’ Association, which had approached court against a proposed helipad in their area, has welcomed Kingfisher’s move, but with caution. Association president RC Puri said, “We had objected to a similar move earlier as it was for individual use. Now, if the entire community benefits, I don’t see a problem. But noise limits and suitable operational timings must be adhered to.”
The heliport at Mahalaxmi Racecourse is already operational. “We’ve been successfully operating from Mahalaxmi. Some restrictions -- like during track work (horse practice) from 5 am to 9 am -- are observed. This also continues from early November to April for races,” said a senior racecourse functionary.