After announcing a joint venture with Tata Sons and Arun Bhatia on Wednesday, AirAsia chief executive Tony Fernandes, in a conference call today, said that he was surprised with the interest the airlines’ entry into India has generated. He believes that the Indian market has huge potential. Excerpts:
When do you plan to start operating in India?
Our start date depends on the approvals from the Indian regulator but we would like to start as soon as possible. We would start with four planes and 300 people and expand it further. The Indian rules, which does not allow us to fly international till five years of flying in the domestic sector is complete and we will wait till then.
What will be the model of the airline?
We will operate with the existing AirAsia model, which is to operate with 180 seater Airbus 320s. And 95 per cent of our aircraft will be owned by us. The board structure of the airline will be according to the government norms that mandates two third of board members should be Indian.
How do you plan to take on the difficulties of the Indian market?
There are issues with high Aviation Turbine Fuel cost and airport charges but we have heard the government talking on doing something on bringing down the ATF prices. On the airport charges, Delhi and Mumbai are expensive airports. Nothing much can be done about the Mumbai airport but we could convince the Delhi airport to start a new low-cost terminal.
What will you offer to the Indian consumers?
There is huge opportunity in Indian market, which has over a billion people and not competitive enough according to me. We will offer more competitive fares to Indian consumers.