AirAsia India (AAI), the Tata Group promoted budget airline, in partnership with Malaysia’s Air Asia group, is hopeful of starting international operations by the end of this year, Sunil Bhaskaran, its recently appointed MD and CEO, told FE on the sidelines of a recently held aviation summit.
The statement assumes significance as AirAsia India is currently under investigation by the Central Bureau of Investigation for allegedly bribing and lobbying government officials to change the civil aviation regulations that made it mandatory for an airline to have completed five years of domestic operations with at least 20 aircraft in its fleet, to be eligible to fly overseas. The airline made an application to the ministry of civil aviation in the month of January seeking permission to fly international.
Vistara, another Tata group airline promoted in partnership with Singapore Airlines, had also applied for flying overseas in June 2018 under the new aviation policy which only requires a carrier to have a minimum fleet of 20 aircraft, but is yet to get approval. Vistara currently has 22 aircraft.
AirAsia India, which started operations in 2014, will complete five years in June 2019. It currently has 20 aircraft and flies on 19 domestic routes.
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If AirAsia India gets permission to fly overseas as per its expectations, it plans on connecting the entire southern region to the Malaysian and the Thailand markets in its initial launch phase drawing upon the network advantages and synergies of its parent group AirAsia that in turn transfers passengers on its long-haul network, Bhaskaran said.
According to a recent report by aviation advisory and research firm CAPA, Thailand and Singapore tops leisure destinations for Indian travellers after Dubai.
There were an estimated 18.4 million outbound departures by Indian residents in 2017, up 14.4% year-on-year, of which around 5.7 million departures are for leisure, the report said.