Channel NewsAsia

AirAsia finally soars in India

AirAsia India finally took off as the fourth low-cost carrier in the country on Thursday with its maiden flight from Bangalore to India’s smallest state, Goa.

NEW DELHI: AirAsia India finally took off as the fourth low-cost carrier in the country on Thursday with its maiden flight from Bangalore to India’s smallest state, Goa.

Tickets for the airline's maiden flight were sold out within 10 minutes of opening for sale on May 30.

This development in itself has sent shock waves through the highly-competitive sector in India.

The 49:30:21 joint venture between AirAsia, Tata Sons and Telestra Tradeplace offered a fare as low as 990 rupees (US$16.70) for the flight.

Its 25,000 promotion seats were also taken up within 48 hours.

"Our motto has always been to make everyone fly. We have already begun to show that we are true to our promise," said Chief Executive Officer Mittu Chandilya in acknowledging the brisk sale of tickets.

To keep pace with the airline, others in the fray such as SpiceJet and IndiGo have come up with their own promotional fares.

In announcing the launch of four new flights on its domestic routes, Indigo also proclaimed fares of one rupee (two US cents) on the Bangalore, Chennai and Goa routes, taking on the competition from AirAsia India’s five-rupee fare (excluding airport tax and other applicable fees).

The other low cost carrier in India is GoAir.

Mittu had said the airline’s fare will be 35 per cent cheaper than others in the market.

According to the Director General of Civil Aviation, among the domestic carriers, including the full-services ones, IndiGo dominates the local market with a 31.6 per cent share, followed by Jet Airways-JetLite combined at 21.8 per cent in April.

Air India has an 18.3 per cent share, SpiceJet 17.9 per cent and GoAir 9.5 per cent.

Although no one has got the inside of AirAsia India’s game plan, it is an open secret that it won't be flying into crowded sectors, at least for now.

AirAsia India has placed its interest in second- and third-tier cities.

About 50 per cent of the traffic is in Mumbai and New Delhi combined, AirAsia’s Group Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes said when the airline was launched.

There are plenty of markets to be developed, he added, highlighting that AirAsia India’s presence will bring new connectivity, more frequency and redistribution of air traffic.

Other airlines furiously lobbied against AirAsia's entry, even after it secured the Air Operator Permit (AOP) last month. It also faced a court case filed by a political party leader objecting to the clearance given to the airline to start operations.

In his no-holds-barred style, Fernandes had lashed out many times over how vested interest was bogging down the Indian aviation industry.

The Indian aviation industry has a $12.6 billion debt and suffered $8.6 billion in cumulative losses.

Fernandes said he had never experienced a situation where an entire industry tried to block his airline.

"Some airlines are scared of us. We must be doing something right," he tweeted recently.

"Help us people of India. Don’t let cartels win and not let (the) ordinary man fly."

Tweet Photos, Videos and Update on this Story to  #cna