An Indian entrepreneur has given a new twist to the concept of low-cost airlines. The passengers boarding his Airbus 300 in Delhi do not expect to go anywhere because it never takes off.
All they want is the chance to know what it is like to sit on a plane, listen to announcements and be waited on by stewardesses bustling up and down the aisle.
In a country where 99% of the population have never experienced air travel, the “virtual journeys” of Bahadur Chand Gupta, a retired Indian Airlines engineer, have proved a roaring success.
As on an ordinary aircraft, customers buckle themselves in and watch a safety demonstration. But when they look out of the windows, the landscape never changes. Even if “Captain” Gupta wanted to get off the ground, the plane would not go far: it only has one wing and a large part of the tail is missing.
None of that bothers Gupta as he sits at the controls in his cockpit. His regular announcements include, “We will soon be passing through a zone of turbulence” and “We are about to begin our descent into Delhi.”
“Some of my passengers have crossed the country to get on this plane,” says Gupta, who charges about Â£2 each for passengers taking the “journey”.
The plane has no lighting and the lavatories are out of order. The air-conditioning is powered by a generator. Even so, about 40 passengers turn up each Saturday to queue for boarding cards.
Jasmine, a young teacher, had been longing to go on a plane. “It is much more beautiful than I ever imagined,” she said.
Addendum: Here is fun commentary.