“Few steps are left, like the proving flight by our own pilots. We expect to get the AOP by July, and the planes (Airbus A320s) will start coming from August. In the first year of operations, we will have five aircraft, increasing it to 20 over the first four years,” the official said.
He added, “We have appointed agencies to select a brand name, which we hope to announce in early August”.
The two partners — Tata Sons has a 51% majority stake while Singapore Airlines owns the rest — have already started hiring for cabin crew, engineers and security officials. In senior management, CEO Phee Teik Yeoh, commercial head Giamming Toh and engineering head Rajinder Singh have come from SIA while CFO Niyat Baru and HR head Varadarajan Srinivasan are from Tata group companies. The joint venture has a three-member board — chairman Prasad Menon and Mukund Rajan (Tata Sons brand custodian and chief ethics officer), besides Singapore Airline’s executive VP (commercial), Mak Swee Wah.
“We are working out the strategy and the basket of services we hope to offer. Wherever a differentiation is possible for higher value, we will look at it. For a full-service airline, all attributes need to be there for a premium experience in terms of food and hygiene,” the official said.
The airline hopes to start flying overseas at the earliest, a move that will help it improve passenger yields and lower fuel costs by re-fuelling overseas.
Asked if the airline senses any competition from AirAsia (India), the other new airline launched on June 12, and in which the Tata group also holds 30%, the Tata-SIA official said, “In AirAsia, the Tata group is largely an investor. We don't see any conflict because the markets are completely different. We will focus largely on the metros while AirAsia has said that smaller cities will be the focus”.
Incidentally, entry of both AirAsia and Tata-SIA has seen stiff resistance by airline lobby group, Federation of Indian Airlines and BJP MP Subramanian Swamy.