AirAsia to start domestic flights in India from June 12

Malaysian budget carrier AirAsia’s Indian joint venture with Tata Group and another local business partner Arun Bhatia is all set to take wings from June 12, 2014, its global chief executive officer Tony Fernandes said. The booking for the seats start from Friday, May 30.

“Very very proud to announce AirAsia India open for sale tomorrow. Wow. First flight June 12th,” Fernandes tweeted on Thursday.

The carrier had received flying permit from the Indian aviation regulator early this month.

It had originally planned to start operations by October-November 2013 but this got delayed due to pending clearances.

In February last year, AirAsia had formed a joint venture with Tata Group and another local business partner Arun Bhatia to operate a domestic low-cost airline. AirAsia owns 49 per cent in the three-party JV with Tatas owning 30 per cent and remaining 21 per cent is with Telstra Tradeplace (owned by Arun Bhatia).

AirAsia, which already flies to India in the international circuit, will compete with other budget carriers such as IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir besides new players such as Air Pegasus.

The government had opened up the sector to foreign strategic investors, allowing foreign direct investment (FDI) up to 49 per cent in 2012.

Early this year the aviation regulator had dismissed objections raised by other incumbents, including IndiGo, which argued that FDI in Indian airline sector is permitted into existing carriers and not for setting up new JVs.

AirAsia has plans to operate a fleet of Airbus A320-200 aircraft, initially with four-five planes and then augment it to 10 in a year for its domestic operations.

It already operates international flights to India connecting various cities like Chennai, Bangalore, Tiruchirappalli, Kochi and Kolkata to Southeast Asia.

Within India, it has formed a hub at Chennai and recently decided to also fly to Delhi. The firm had earlier planned to skip Delhi and Mumbai airports due to high taxation and other charges at the two airports.

It will enter the market at a time when the incumbents are facing huge pressure. Full service airlines Jet Airways just clocked its highest ever quarterly loss for the three months ended March 31, 2014. SpiceJet, another public listed carrier and the second largest low cost airlines in the country, also ended FY14 with record loss.

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