After months of delay and litigation, AirAsia (India) is now expected to start commercial operations from June this year, industry sources said. The last leg of regulatory formalities, a “proving flight” with officials of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation onboard the airline's first Airbus A320, was completed on Thursday and an air operator's permit (AOP) is now expected next week.
With the AOP in hand, Chennai-based AirAsia will file a flight schedule for its first few routes that are likely to be limited to South India. In March, the airline took delivery of its first A320 aircraft — drawn from Malaysian parent Air Asia's new order with Airbus. It plans to start adding more over the next few months.
Headed by Mittu Chandilya as CEO, AirAsia (India) is the first new domestic airline to start operations after the government in September 2012 allowed foreign airlines to pick up to 49% in domestic carriers. The carrier is a joint venture between Tony Fernandes-led Malaysian carrier AirAsia Bhd (49%), Tata Sons (30%) and Delhi-based business man Arun Bhatia's Telestra Tradeplace (21%). The airline would initially focus on connecting non-metro towns and replicate its low-cost, no-frills model that has seen considerable success in Southeast asia.
Though the Foreign Investment Promotion Board had given its approval for AirAsia's investment in April last year and the civil aviation ministry gave a 'no-objection certificate' in September 2013, AirAsia (India) has been awaiting the final step — an AOP from the DGCA, for the last six months. Initially, the airline had aimed at starting commercial operations by the January-March, 2014 quarter, but industry experts say that scheduled operations may only start by May now.
Besides AirAsia, Tata Sons has also applied for a second domestic airline joint venture with Singapore Airlines, which is also awaiting an AOP from the DGCA after receiving an NoC from the civil aviation ministry in April this year. In AirAsia, the Tata group is likely to be largely an investor but, in Tata-SIA, the salt-to-software giant is expected to be actively involved in operations.