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Malaysia-based AirAsia came a step closer to launching its low-cost airline in India on Wednesday as it secured a key permit from the aviation regulator.
The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has issued an air operators’ permit (AOP), a move that is likely to bring cheers to passengers, potentially setting the stage for a fare war with budget carriers such as IndiGo and SpiceJet.
AirAsia’s Group CEO Tony Fernandes has promised “nano fares” and has said that the revenue management of Indian carriers was “very poor” and air fares were "just too high".
It has taken more than a year for AirAsia India, a joint venture between AirAsia, Tata Group and Arun Bhatia of Telestra Tradeplace to get the AOP.
AirAsia India, which plans to connect smaller cities to start with, now needs to file a flight schedule with the DGCA and is likely to start commercial operations in the next couple of months. In its application to DGCA it had listed Bangalore, Trichy, Madurai, Coimbatore, Cochin, Goa Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Pune as destinations.
"The AOP is for one year because they have one aircraft. They have to bring four more aircraft within one year after which the AOP would be extended by another four years," said DGCA chief Prabhat Kumar. AirAsia India plans to have a 10-aircraft fleet within a year.
"History has been made today in aviation. Everything has been hard for AirAsia but we never give up. Today AirAsia India has got approval," tweeted Fernandes on Wednesday.
"As of now we have one Airbus A-320 and we will induct one aircraft every month,” said Mittu Chandilya, CEO, AirAsia India. “We will like to begin operations with a fleet of three planes."