The Weekend Leader - AirAsia India seeks sops to fly more people

AirAsia India seeks sops to fly more people



The Indian government should reduce tax on aviation turbine fuel, lower airport charges and allow new airlines to operate on overseas routes to fly more people at an affordable price, a top foreign airline executive said Thursday.

"We want the Indian government to do three things - reduce tax on ATF (aviation turbine fuel), lower various charges levied at airports as they are higher than in other countries and lift the five-year ban on new airlines to launch international flights," AirAsia group chief executive Tony Fernandes told reporters here.

The leading Malaysia-based budget airline is the latest low-cost carrier (AirAsia India) operating in southern India as a joint venture, with Tata Sons and Telstra Tradeplace as strategic investors.

"Since we launched our first service June 12, we have been having 90 percent plan load factor. Our model is something people have been waiting for. The Indian government should allow more people to fly, as we want to bust the myth that flying is only for the rich," Fernandes said at the official launch of the airline, which re-located its office here from Chennai recently.

Asserting that change of government was not detrimental for the airline, Fernandes said he was happy with the aviation policy of the new government.

"We are bullish about the Indian market. The government should allow the airlines to fly where they want though India is a different market from other countries," he said.

Noting that to make every Indian fly at affordable cost, promoting tourism and creating a market were his airline's gameplan, Fernandes said it was a dream come true for him to enter India though it took him 12-13 years to realise.

"We decided to be in India 12-13 years ago. We were slow in coming. I told Ratan Tata that I wanted to change civil aviation in India. He responded positively with alacrity. So we are here," Fernandes recalled his first meeting with Tata Sons chairman emeritus in Singapore in 2011 when he was exploring for a strategic partner to set up the joint venture.

In the $30-million joint venture, AirAsia Berhad of Malaysia has majority stake (49 percent equity) while Tata Sons holds 30 percent and Telstra Tradeplace the remaining 21 percent.

"We started with two aircraft in Malaysia over a decade ago and have grown to 200 aircraft and flown 51 million passengers so far. We want to do the same in India - fly more people by making flying affordable. We want to reduce the operational cost as much as possible because lower the cost of the ticket, greater the affordability," Fernandes noted.

Though the airline currently operates two services to Goa and Chennai from Bangalore and starting third service to Kochi July 20, it plans to induct nine more A-320 aircraft to launch services on more destinations, especially on feeder routes, connecting cities and towns across the country.

Airline's non-executive chairman S. Ramadorai said the brand had shown what passion, drive, vision and determination could do.

"We are committed to bring the best to the customer. People should not hesitate to fly. We are raising the bar. Our focus is on innovation led by ethos and values, as dreams of millions of people are to travel by air at an affordable price," Ramadorai said on the occasion. - IANS