Akasa Air gets government’s nod to fly to international destinations

Sep 20, 2023 05:14 PM IST

The civil aviation ministry is in the process of allocating traffic rights to Akasa Air after which the airline will approach DGCA for further procedures

NEW DELHI: The ministry of civil aviation has approved Mumbai-based budget carrier Akasa Air’s request to fly to international destinations, two officials close to the development said.

An aircraft operated by Akasa Air prepares to land at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai (Bloomberg File)
An aircraft operated by Akasa Air prepares to land at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai (Bloomberg File)

‘The proposal was examined in consultation with DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) and it has been decided with the approval of competent authority, to allow Akasa Air to mount international operations subject to their continued compliance…,’ the civil aviation ministry said in a letter to the airline. HT has reviewed the communication.

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It added that Akasa Air, the country’s newest airline, was eligible to apply for international scheduled air transport services.

“The civil aviation ministry is currently in the process of allocating traffic rights after which the airline will approach the DGCA for further procedures and permissions,” one of the two officials said.

In a statement, Akasa Air described the government’s approval as a recognition of the strength of the airline’s operations.

“This new designation will allow us to fly internationally, enabling us to take one step closer to our dream of launching international operations before the end of this year. We are now working with all relevant authorities on our request for traffic rights and will soon be able to announce the international destination we will fly to. We are targeting destinations within the range of a 737 MAX from India in South Asia, Southeast Asia and the Middle East,” the airline said.

“We are also on track to announce a 3-digit aircraft order by the end of this year to serve the growing travel demand. We have always prioritised reliability and customer satisfaction through detailed planning and an experienced team, allowing us to become one of the fastest-growing airline in civil aviation history.”

The airline recently added its 20th aircraft in its first year of operations - it was launched in August last year - thus becoming eligible to apply for international scheduled air transport services.

Previously, airlines seeking approval to fly abroad were required to have five years of experience on domestic routes apart from a fleet of 20 aircraft. However, the revised civil aviation policy eliminated the requirement of five years’ experience.

Vinay Dube, founder and chief executive officer of Akasa Air, told HT in July that the airline would fly its first international flight before the end of 2023.

“Going from zero to 20 aircraft within 12 months is not just an Akasa record but a record that encapsulates the potential of the country,” Dube said at the time. He indicated the initial flights would be within a 5-6 hour radius. “So, the Middle East, Southeast Asia, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka will be explored. Which is generally the radius of where our aircraft can fly is where we’re targeting. This is a discussion both on traffic rights with the Ministry of Civil Aviation and secondly with the appropriate airport for slots. The discussions are ongoing..’

To be sure, the airline has been facing challenges over the past few months on account of resignations by about 40 pilots, forcing the airline to cancel many flights. The development led to a drop in its market share from 5.2% in July to 4.2% in August, a Reuters report said quoting data maintained by India’s aviation regulator DGCA. The company has sued the pilots in the Bombay high court on the grounds that they did not discharge their contractual obligation to serve their 6-month notice period.

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    I am a principal correspondent with the national political bureau of the Hindustan Times. I track the aviation and railways ministry. I also write on travel trends. I cover the beats at the national level for the newspaper. Before being in Delhi, I have worked as a journalist in Mumbai as well. My hobbies include trekking and travelling.

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