There is a new regional airline in the offing and it has some strong Goan connections. For a start, it will be based out of Goa and its founder is local boy Manoj Chacko.
Set to take off in September this year, Fly91 is promoted by Manoj Chacko, an aviation veteran and co-founded by Harsha Raghavan, who will meet the initial investment of Rs 200 crore through his investment firm Convergent Finance.
Raghavan will be Fly91’s chairman, and Chacko, who was born and pursued his schooling and higher education in Goa, will be the chief executive officer.
Chacko is an alumnus of Goa College of Engineering, Goa University, and was executive vice-president of Kingfisher Airlines. He was also the chief operating officer and CEO of SOTC and has held various positions in airlines and travel companies.
Fly91 (91 is India’s country dialling code), has applied for the initial no-objection certificate with the civil aviation ministry and is planning to operate leased 70-seater ATR 72-600 turboprop jets, for which it is in discussion with plane leasing companies.
The September 2023 operations target will see the airline start with two aircraft, before adding another four in the first year of operations and 32 planes in five years.
Listing out the reasons for selecting Goa as a base, Chacko, speaking to Gomantak Media, revealed, “We believe Goa is a great destination – a positive destination to be in.”
He explained, “Goa is the eighth busiest destination in India as far as air travel is concerned. So among the top ten destinations in the country, Goa is at number eight. Besides, now with the second airport, Goa will have more people flying in. Dabolim airport was constrained. With more capacity, there will be more people.”
There are other reasons that weighed in favour of the state, such as Goa now being a year-round destination and not seeing a lean period during the monsoon and the strong MICE tourism segment that brings in corporates to the state for their events.
Chacko also said that as a destination, people are comfortable flying into Goa even in the middle of the night.
Though he spent his early years in Goa, this personal bias did not go into selecting the state as a base, but it was an informed decision, Chacko said, and added, “Goa is also a strong international charter destination and so is a gateway for charter passengers to visit India and go back. Those people also like to visit other states of India, and Goa is their entry and exit point.”
“All flight timings that airlines have got in Goa are suitable for tourists to come to Goa, not for Goans to get out of Goa. So you have early morning and mid-afternoon flights, which are not times that suit the locals. We believe that local Goans need to travel out and need the convenience of timing,” Chacko said.
The decision to be based in Goa goes beyond aviation and travel factors.
“The other thing is that Goa becomes a low-cost base for us compared to metros, where real estate and rental costs are much higher. In Goa, we have the advantage of costs being lower and the quality of life being higher. So even for a mid-level to senior executives and pilots, Goa would be an affordable base,” Chacko said.
Besides being based out of Goa, Chacko’s Goa connection is very strong. Having completed his entire education in Goa, Chacko returns to Goa often and has a home here.
“My parents moved to Goa in 1965. My father taught at the Nirmala Institute of Education and my mother was a teacher at Ribandar. I was born in Ribandar, and though I went out of Goa for work, my daughter too was born in Goa,” Chacko, who is most comfortable eating bhaji puri at Café Bhonsle, told Gomantak Media.
In the early stages, Fly91 will be looking at short-haul destinations, keeping flight times to within 90 minutes and serving regional airports. But as it grows, the airline would look to expand its base, Chacko said.