Bangalore, once the operational hub of the now grounded Kingfisher Airlines, could soon become the operational base of another high-profile airline, AirAsia India. AirAsia's group chief executive officer Tony Fernandes said on Tuesday that the airline plans to have operational bases in Bangalore, Chennai and Kochi once it starts operations in India later this year.
“We plan to have operational bases in Banaglore, Chennai and Kochi,” said Fernandes after a meeting with commerce and industry minister Anand Sharma on Tuesday. The AirAsia chief was in New Delhi to meet five ministers, including civil aviation minister Ajit Singh.
AirAsia India's plans will prove to be a fillip for the GVK operated Banagalore International Airport. At its peak, Kingfisher Airlines operated nearly 100 daily flights out of Bangalore.
Meanwhile, Fernandes also said that he was hopeful that AirAsia India will start operations from October this year.
“We are still waiting for the no-objection certificate from the civil aviation ministry,” he said. “Once they provide us with the NOC, we can apply for the air operators certificate and hopefully by October we can start operations.”
AirAsia India has previously said that it will focus on Tier II cities, offer low fares and initially look to build its business in South India.
Fernandes also said that in order to reduce costs, AirAsia India and other Indian airlines are trying to convince aircraft maker Airbus to open a maintenance, repair and overhaul centre in India.
“With the commerce minister, we discussed the high taxation on MRO,” said Fernandes. “Having an MRO in India would greatly help reduce costs, but there needs to be some relaxation with regards to the taxation on spare parts and high service tax that the MRO sector suffers from.”
Elaborating on the need for reduced taxation for MROs in India, Fernandes said, “In Kochi, I saw a fantastic MRO but completely unutilised. If the taxes are lowered, Indian airlines will use these MROs and not only reduce their own costs but also provide employment for the large number of engineers that this country has.”
AirAsia has the largest fleet of Airbus A320s in the world. India's largest passenger carrier IndiGo and GoAir also have an full Airbus A320 fleet.
Fernandes also said that recruitment for AirAsia is going well and they would soon announce a chief financial officer for the Indian operations. “There are three names in the shortlist,” he said.