Billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-promoted Akasa Air on Tuesday, June 21 received its first plane from American aerospace company Boeing.
Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft, which flew from Seattle, touched down at Indira Gandhi International Airport in New Delhi on June 21.
“The delivery of Akasa Air’s first aircraft brings the airline closer to obtaining its Air Operator’s Permit (AOP), which is required for it to launch commercial operations in the country,” Akasa Air said in a statement.
Akasa Air, which is also backed by aviation veterans Vinay Dube and Aditya Ghosh, had signed a deal with aerospace giant Boeing to purchase 72 MAX planes in November 2021. The low-cost carrier is expecting the delivery of 18 aircraft by March next year and the remaining 54 aeroplanes by 2026.
The external environment concerning rising oil prices and rupee depreciation has not changed “anything” in the plans for Akasa Air and the airline is confident of commencing flights next month with two aircraft.
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The airline, in August 2021, received a no-objection certificate from the Ministry of Civil Aviation in August 2021 to launch commercial flight operations.
Akasa has earlier announced the launch of its operations from the mid of 2022 onwards. However, no official date has been set so far.
The company is eying the world’s third-largest aviation market that is rapidly growing with several airlines offering low-fare tickets and air connectivity increasing with new routes and airports.
For Boeing, a USD 9 billion deal with Akasa Air means regaining lost ground in India as its European rival Airbus will be delivering hundreds of aircraft to budget carriers IndiGo and GoAir, in addition to Vistara.
The company suffered huge losses after its 737 Max — the newest member of Boeing’s 737 narrow-body family — was grounded in several countries, including China and India.
In October 2018, the 737 Max crashed in the Java Sea shortly after takeoff from Jakarta. Later, in March 2019, another aircraft of the same model crashed in Ethiopia. Both these accidents killed a total of 346 people.
Co-Founder, CEO and MD of the airline, Vinay Dube believes aviation is a straightforward business. He has spent most of his three-decade-long career steering airline companies as Senior VP – APac for Delta Air Lines or CEO of Jet Airways and GoAir (previously known as Go First).
In an interview with Outlook, Vinay Dube says, “We have not entered this market because we think that getting passengers from other brands is the key to success. India will get over 1,000 planes in the next 15 to 20 years. We hope that over 100 of those can be Akasa’s over a while.”
He further adds, “We have generally identified a superset of routes, flying from the metro to tier-II and III cities. We can’t zoom in on the routes because the airports must give us permission to land, park, office space and slots. This will be possible only after we get our operator’s permit which we hope to get by this month-end.”
As required by Indian aviation guidelines, to begin with, we will be a domestic carrier. We hope to launch our own international services in the second half of 2023.
Akasa Air is going through a very rigorous process to get the air operator’s permit. The airline, which plans to start commercial operations by the end of July, is currently expecting to get an air operator’s permit which will allow them to publish its schedule and open up for sale.
Akasa needs the aircraft to land and goes through proving flights before we can get an air operator’s permit. It all happens under the direct supervision of our regulator, the Director General of Civil Aviation. Hopefully, by early July, Akasa will be able to get its Air Operator’s Permit.
Akasa Air is looking to serve sectors between metro cities and tier 2 and tier 3 cities. With the 737 Max aircraft, a mid-sized narrow-bodied aircraft, they won’t be able to fly to an extremely small city maybe with a population of four hundred or five hundred thousand (equating the size of the population with runway).
Cover Image – Shrey Chopra (Twitter)