Kadapa city in the backward Rayalseema region of Andhra Pradesh went on the air map of the country when low-cost carrier Air Pegasus on Sunday flew in the inaugural flight from Karnataka capital of Bengaluru.
"We are the first airline to connect Bengaluru with Kadapa by landing our aircraft (ATR-72) at its new airport, inaugurated by Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju," Air Pegasus managing director Shyson Thomas told IANS.
Flights will operate thrice a week.
Andhra Pradesh Chief Minister N. Chandrababu Naidu and other invitees, including union Urban Development Minister M. Venkaiah Naidu and lawmakers from the Rayalaseema region, were present on the occasion.
The 50-minute flight took off at 10.40 a.m. from the Kempegowda international airport, 40 km from the city centre, and landed at Kadapa at 11.30 a.m.
The plane returned to Bengaluru after the event at the Kadapa airport.
The 1,719 metre-long and 45 metre-wide runway at the airport can at present handle an ATR-72 type of aircraft.
Venkaiah Naidu said the runway and the airport would be expanded and upgraded to handle operations of bigger aircraft, and the central government will consider naming the airport after saint-poet Annamayya.
The Bengaluru-based airline, which operates the 66-seater twin-engine turboprop ATR-72 on its feeder service, has put the fare at Rs.1,234 as an initial offering.
"As Kadapa is one of the fast-growing tier-two cities and a major trading centre in the region, we are committed to contribute to its economic prosperity as a sole operator," Thomas said.
Launching its maiden service to Hubballi in north Karnataka from Bengaluru on May 12 and to Thiruvananthapuram in Kerala the following day (May 13), the budget airline claims to have about 80 percent load factor.
"Air connectivity to Kadapa, a strong base for mining and manufacturing, will help many local businesses expand their reach beyond regional markets," he said.
The airline's parent company Decor Aviation provides ground handling services to Indian and overseas airlines at 11 airports across the country.
"We aim to be a regional airline brand with more connectivity in regions which are underserved and to connect non-connected sectors," the managing director said.
The company has invested Rs.100 crore to launch the service, with 3:1 equity-debt ratio.
The airline plans to add three more ATR aircraft to the two it has on dry lease by December.
The state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) developed the Kadapa airport at a cost of Rs.42 crore on an area of 520 acres. The AAI aims to promote regional connectivity in tier-two and tier-three cities.
"The airport has a new compact pre-fabricated terminal with a capacity to handle 100 peak hour passengers at a time and the runway is capable to handle an ATR-72 tpye of aircraft operations," the AAI said in a statement.
The new apron at the airport can shelter three ATR-72 aircraft for night halt.
Though the southern region has 30 functional airports, all of them are not connected yet, as full-fledged, budget carrier and other low-cost airlines have been operating between metros and cities, leaving tier-two and tier-three cities or towns unconnected.
The airline, whose brand is named after the winged stallion from Greek mythology, has permit to launch service to and from any of the 22 airports across south India, connecting tier-two and tier-three cities with cities and metros like Chennai and Hyderabad.
Air Pegasus is the ninth carrier in the country and third new airline to launch service after Air Asia and Vistara during the last 14 months.