Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia, which has formed a joint venture with Tata Group and another local business partner Arun Bhatia, to operate a domestic low-cost airlines, has got the green signal of the civil aviation ministry to start flying. However, the firm now needs to clear a final hurdle with a flying permit from the sector regulator before it takes to the skies.
AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes tweeted on Thursday: "I am thrilled to announce that AirAsia India has received NOC approval from the government of India; very exciting and hugely profitable."
He praised the Indian government for the quickest approval ever in granting NoC to AirAsia India and also acknowledged the role of India business chief Mittu Chandilya in clearing the tasks set upon him.
The NoC would enable AirAsia India to import the first of the three aircraft to its domestic hub Chennai, which is also its headquarters.
AirAsia India now needs a scheduled operatorâs permit or SOP from the directorate general of civil aviation (DGCA) for launching its operations. The proposed launch is running shortly behind schedule but the airlines JV feels it should take to the skies by early 2014.
The DGCA grants the SOP after vetting the preparations of a start-up airline to launch flights by examining issues like availability of aircraft, manpower to operate flights as well as on the ground, aircraft parking space at airports and engineering facilities.
Last month, the firm got security clearances by the Union Home Ministry.
AirAsia already has international flights to India connecting various cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Tiruchirappalli, Kochi and Kolkata to Southeast Asia.
Tata Sons, one of the minority partners in AirAsia India recently announced a JV with Singapore Airlines to launch a full-service carrier. One of the partners of AirAsia India, Arun Bhatia had publicly voiced his displeasure as he was not informed of the parallel move by Tatas in the aviation business in India. Tata had clarified that it had kept AirAsia in the loop for its separate proposed venture.
AirAsia owns 49 per cent in the three party JV with Tatas owning 30 per cent and remaining 21 per cent with Telstra Tradeplace (owned by Arun Bhatia).
The government had opened up the sector to foreign strategic investors, allowing FDI up to 49 per cent last year.
(Edited by Joby Puthuparampil Johnson)