Tony Fernandes, group chief executive of AirAsia, has alleged that the entire aviation industry of India has ganged up to stop the Malaysian budget carrier’s foray into the country.
The application of AirAsia India — a joint venture of the Tata Group, Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia and Arun Bhatia of Telestra Tradeplace — for an operator’s permit is pending before the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA).
The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), which represents Jet Airways, GoAir, SpiceJet, IndiGo and the grounded Kingfisher Airlines, had objected to AirAsia’s entry to DGCA in response to a public notice the regulator issued seeking objections and suggestions on granting permit to AirAsia India.
The group argued that the September 2012 policy change on allowing foreign carriers to invest in Indian airlines was applicable only to existing airlines, not to new ones. The FIA’s logic was, however, rejected by the regulator.
“I have never experienced this in my life where the entire aviation industry has tried to block us. It’s just not my style. Every country we have gone to, we have never experienced an industry that has ganged up against us,” Fernandes told a news channel.
“It’s very clear that many people don’t want us to start, which means we must be quite good,” he added wrily.
Fernandes said he didn’t think any of the domestic airlines operating in India could be classified as a low-cost carrier (LCC). “I think no one is really a LCC. If you look at the fares charged by IndiGo and SpiceJet… yes there are some promotional fares but the average fares are very high. And I don’t think the common man has benefited. Realistically, there is no real LCC. (Air) Deccan was the last one. So, I think what I am appealing to is the new market,” he said.
About the Tatas’ plan to launch another carrier with Singapore Airlines, he said: “I think there will some cannibalisation without doubt and that’s for Tata’s to sort out. I think they have to define their model very clearly.”