Amar Abrol, the managing director and CEO of AirAsia India (AAI), will be moving back to the AirAsia Group’s headquarters in Malaysia, the company said in a statement on Wednesday. AAI is the budget airline owned jointly by the Tata Group and Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes and has a market share of just over 4%. AAI was set up after India opened up the aviation sector to foreign direct investment in 2013 and currently flies to 20 destinations with hubs at Bengaluru, Kolkata and Delhi.
Abrol’s successor is expected to be a seasoned aviation professional with international exposure. AAI has added six new routes and three aircraft since January and now commands a fleet size of 18 aircraft. The carrier is likely to add three more aircraft by the end of 2018, taking the tally to 20 and reaching the threshold to launch overseas flights. AAI posted a net profit of `13.24 crore in Q4CY17, its first since inception, on revenues of `518 crore, nearly twice that in Q4CY16.
The airline carried 1.47 million passengers in Q1CY18, an increase of 74% year-on-year, information from AirAsia’s parent company showed. However, the passenger load factor, at 83%, was down by 6% year-on-year, as a result of an 87% increase in capacity.
Abrol’s stepping down, persons familiar with the development said, could be a consequence of the changes at AirAsia’s headquarters, where Fernandes is understood to have distanced himself from operations. The parent company now has two CEOs, one each to supervise airline and non-airline operations.
The development at AAI comes when it is in a fairly stable stage of operations, unlike in 2016 when Abrol took over from Mittu Chandilya, the first MD and CEO. The airline was then struggling with six aircraft and a barely 2% market share, after all the hype built up around its tag line ‘Everyone can fly’.
By Manisha Singhal