Akasa Air not ultra low cost; will seek nod to fly international routes next summer: Vinay Dube – Times of India

Akasa Air not ultra low cost; will seek nod to fly international routes next summer: Vinay Dube – Times of India

NEW DELHI: Big bull Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed Akasa Air that takes off this summer will not be an ultra low cost carrier (LCC). But like big blue IndiGo, its aircraft will also not have ovens on board for real hot food and flyers will need to keep packed upma/noodles/poha/biryani in hot water for a few minutes before having the same. However, the man behind Akasa — founder, MD & CEO Vinay Dube — says the airline “has some surprises that go beyond anybody else in our category” in store for a comfortable journey which will be revealed later. “We are going to get our first Boeing 737 Max in the second half of April and our first commercial flight should be in May-end or early June. By the end of March 2023, Akasa should have 18 aircraft. Post that over the next four years we will induct 12-14 Max annually, taking our fleet to (the ordered) 72,” Dube, an aviation veteran who has held top positions with Jet Airways, GoAir and many big foreign airlines. Recruitment of personnel like pilots, cabin crew and airport staffers has begun. The airline, which has former IndiGo president Aditya Ghosh as co-founder, will have a fleet of 20 aircraft by next summer. It will immediately apply for rights to fly abroad on meeting the 0/20 rule (no age bar but having a minimum fleet of 20 planes) and start flying overseas to places like Gulf, SAARC and Southeast Asia as soon as it gets the permission to do so. A final call on onboard WiFi is yet to be taken and in-sea charge will be “disclosed over time”. “Our focus will always be on the customer. We will always be very warm, courteous and efficient in the way we serve them. We will use data and analytics for speedier processes.” While Akasa’s head office will be in Mumbai, the airline is in talks with various airport operators to decide its primary hub depending on availability of check-in counters, parking slots and office space being offered. “Where we see our niche is flying between metros and tier 2/3 cities. That’s what we will target initially,” he said. Airlines in India don’t make money due to a prohibitively expensive operating cost environment, thanks mainly to very costly jet fuel prices because of high base prices and even steeper taxes. IndiGo, the only profitable Indian airline in recent years, has also flown in deep red during Covid. Dube, however, does not believe Indian airlines will keep bleeding endlessly. And neither does Jhunjhunwala, who is not known for losing money. “Airlines in India may have a certain record. I spent a decade with Delta in the US and they made billions of dollars in profit for 10 years in a row (till Covid struck). There is no reason why a sector should remain perennially unhealthy. It’s a sector that is extremely important for India, for consumers. It’s a sector everyone can make money in a very reasonable and rationale manner. That’s why we have decided to start the airline,” he said.

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