Bangalore, Jun 13, 2014: Heating up the intensely competitive low-cost airline market, AirAsia India on Thursday launched its maiden Indian flight from the Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) here to Goa.
The fully booked, 55-minute flight, on an Airbus A320 aircraft, also marked the city’s imminent emergence as a hub for the airline, an Indo-Malaysian joint venture. AirAsia’s second flight, connecting Bangalore to Chennai will kick off on June 19. In the next three months, Bangalore will be linked to nine regional cities, dramatically increasing the KIA’s stature as a hub.
“We will develop our hub in Bangalore. We have also given our commitment to the KIA in this regard,” announced AirAsia India’s Chief Executive Officer, Mittu Chandilya, before boarding the first flight.
Jaipur and Kochi are high among AirAsia’s immediate route expansion plans. Tier-2 and Tier-3 cities, including Mangalore and Hubli could be next, indicated Chandilya. But the airline had fleet expansion as its top priority, with 30 more A320 aircraft to be added over the next three years. Currently, AirAsia has just one aircraft, configured in an all-economy layout of 180 seats.
Headquartered in Chennai, AirAsia had consciously opted for Bangalore as a hub due to its strategic location. But Chandilya emphasised that the 29 per cent tax levied by the Karnataka government on Aviation Turbine Fuel (ATF) was “very high”. “We have had discussions with the state government for providing concessions on ATF. The State has promised to look into the taxes. We have shown them how important it is to develop a hub in Bangalore,” he said.
With 300 new recruits already in place to scale up its operations, AirAsia has shifted a key office to Bangalore. In due course, the airline has proposed to locate its pilots, cabin crew and other staff here. “We are excited about Bangalore. The airport has enough facilities here,” he said.
Priced at an unprecedented Rs 990 per ticket, all the seats in the maiden flight to Goa had been sold out within minutes after the bookings opened on May 30.
Chandilya reassured that the low-cost, “unbundled” fares (base fare plus additional fare for more services) would stay, helping AirAsia compete with first class AC railway tickets. After a prolonged delay, the Director General of Civil Aviation had on May 7 granted permission to AirAsia to launch its low-cost, no-frills operations.