After much delay, low-cost carrier AirAsia (India) is expected to get final approval for starting commercial operations next week, a senior company official told FE. Aviation regulator, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), will issue an air operator's permit (AOP) to the airline after its officials conduct the last level of checks, a ‘proving flight’, by Monday.
“The DGCA formalities are not complete yet. They should be done by Monday. They have to do a proving flight and we are waiting for their schedule to be given to us. Everything is in place at our end, but we have not decided when to start,” the AirAsia official said. The new airline, which took delivery of its first aircraft (A320) last month, will add more planes to its fleet only after the AOP is granted, the official said.
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' to the airline 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 January-March, 2014, but industry experts say that scheduled operations may only start by May now.
AirAsia (India), the first new domestic airline to start operations after the government in September 2012 allowed foreign airlines to pick 49% in domestic carriers, is a joint venture between the Tony Fernandes-led Malaysian carrier AirAsia (49%), Tata Sons (30%) and Delhi-based businessman 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.
Apart from AirAsia, Tata Sons has also applied for a second domestic airline joint venture with Singapore Airlines.This is also awaiting an AOP from DGCA after an NoC from the civil aviation ministry earlier this month. 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.