On August 26 this year, Deccan will turn five. An important milestone in the life of a troubled low-fare carrier, but that’s not why its new owner, UB Group’s Vijay Mallya, is looking forward to the event. Rather, it’s the fact that on turning five, Deccan will be able to fly international routes—something that Mallya’s other airline, full-service carrier, Kingfisher, isn’t allowed to do because it doesn’t have five years of operating history as government regulations demand. But Mallya’s flight path won’t be as smooth as he expected it to be. For starters, the Ministry of Civil Aviation, which is the lord of Indian skies, has asked Deccan to start its international services from November, and not August end as Mallya had been planning. The rationale given: August falls under the end of the summer season schedule and with operations starting mid-schedule, only a limited number of slots would be allotted. While November marks the start of the winter schedule, the summer schedule runs its course from April to November.Then, Mallya, who is said to be sparring with Deccan’s original promoter G. R. Gopinath, is keen that the airline that becomes the UB Group flag-bearer should be Kingfisher, which the world knows more as a beer brand than an airline.
But that would be possible only if Mallya changes Deccan’s name into Kingfisher. It shouldn’t be a big issue (Like rival Naresh Goyal’s Jet Airways, Mallya can always have a ‘Lite’ version of Kingfisher), except that he has spent upwards of Rs 60 crore on rebranding Deccan (earlier known as Air Deccan) as Simplifly Deccan. That’s a lot of money to write off, but it seems Mallya may have no choice. “In the next 3-4 months you will see Deccan getting another brand makeover, which may not have the word ‘Deccan’ in its name at all,” says Rajesh Verma, Executive Vice President, Kingfisher Airlines. As probably Mallya reckons, a few tens of crores is small price to pay to get his famous bird to fly abroad as well.
— Pallavi Srivastava