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'India is big enough to have over 4 airlines'

By Ajinkya Kawale
October 28, 2023 12:20 IST
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'Within five years, we should be achieving more on the international front than what it took most airlines 15 to 20 years back.'

IMAGE: An Akasa Air aircraft taxis on the tarmac at the Chhatrapati Shivaji international airport in Mumbai. Photograph: Francis Mascarenhas/Reuters

Low-cost carrier Akasa Air will soon fly to cities in West Asia.

The airline is looking to have a mix of other international destinations in regions such as Southeast Asia and East Africa.

"Our idea is to run an airline that is highly service-oriented and dependable, but has a cost structure that allows us to compete with anyone at any point," Vinay Dubey, co-founder and CEO of the airline, tells Ajinkya Kawale/Business Standard.

The airline recently received the rights to fly to four West Asian cities such as Riyadh, Jeddah, Doha, and Kuwait. Apart from these places, which international regions are you looking to focus on next?

Our intention is to fly all over, not just West Asia. Our MAX (Boeing 737 MAX aircraft) in its category has the longest range.

We're looking at a mix of destinations, which includes Southeast Asia, West Asia, Commonwealth of Independent States countries, East Africa, Male (Maldives), Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Nepal, and all the other countries that can be reached within six hours.

There is already a substantial presence of other carriers on international routes where you plan to start operating soon.
From the Akasa perspective, what is the key differentiator that your airline plans to offer to flyers on these international routes?

The key differentiators of Akasa are going to be the same for domestic and international.

When you're flying international, the longer you fly the more important legroom is.

If you look at our legroom compared to a 320 (Airbus A320 aircraft), it is much more.

Second, the longer you fly, the more your tailbone hurts if you're sitting on a steel bench and the benefit of the one extra inch of foam on our aircraft seat comes in when one flies internationally.

Once your phone runs out of power, we have USB charging.

You'll want to order food on a plane because it's a five to six hours long flight.

Everything that we offer domestically gets accentuated when you fly internationally.

What will the distribution look like between international and domestic routes for the airline by the end of 2025?

We can't provide that forecast because it is dependent on traffic allocations and slot rights that we get in one country versus the other.

That said, we will achieve more on the international front by the end of our second year (of operations) than it took most people to get to in 10 years.

Within five years, we should be achieving more on the international front than what it took most airlines 15 to 20 years back.

The country has major airlines like IndiGo and the Tata Group of airlines. In this equation of carriers in India, how do you plan on substantially expanding the presence of Akasa Air in the country?

First and foremost we don't have specific market-share goals.

If we create satisfied customers and focus on our cost structure, India is a country big enough to have over four airlines.

Our idea is to run an airline that is highly service-oriented and dependable, but has a cost structure that allows us to compete with anyone at any point.

That is the recipe for success.

Do you see Akasa getting squeezed because of the major airlines in the country looking at the domestic market?

Not at all. The United States has four airlines, which together have over an 80 per cent market share and nobody is getting squeezed. In fact, the smaller ones are more profitable than the bigger ones.

The exodus of pilots forced the airline to cut down on a few flights in the past few months.
How did it affect your trajectory or growth plans in the short term?

I request you not to use the word 'exodus'. We had approximately 330 pilots in April. If there was an exodus, the number of pilots would have been fewer than 330 today. Currently, we have about 500 pilots.

It was one of the things that we didn't plan for because it was unimaginable. While we are a group of planners, we never planned that people would just abandon their posts. As a result of that, we had a lot of pilots who were in various stages of training.

Therefore, for a short period of time, we were forced to reduce our network and take some cancellations and reduce our network in the short term.

The good news is that it is now behind us. The courts have reaffirmed the fact that the airline's contractual notice period applies. We're back now in growth mode because now our pilots continue to finish their training and come online.

Have the resignations of pilots stopped now or do you still observe resignations happening?

There are no resignations on the pilot front that I can convey today.

What are your plans on increasing the number of flights?

Our network for December is going to be 10 per cent larger than what we're flying today. As we exit March (2024), it is going to be over a third larger than what we're flying today.

Feature Presentation: Ashish Narsale/

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Ajinkya Kawale
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