Business Standard

Akasa gets NOC, plans to start flights in 2022

DGCA nod next step for Jhunjhunwa­la’s airline

- ARINDAM MAJUMDER & ANEESH PHADNIS

In the season of aviation action, Rakesh Jhunjhunwa­la-backed Akasa Air has secured the crucial no-objection certificat­e (NOC) from the civil aviation ministry. It expects to start operations next summer. The airline will now have to apply for the Directorat­e General of Civil Aviation for operations permit.

Aviation sector has been in the limelight with the Tata Group winning the Air India bid last week. Jhunjhunwa­la himself was in news too as photograph­s of his meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi went viral in social media. The details of the meeting were not known.

Akasa Air has been co-promoted by Vinay Dube, former CEO of Jet Airways. Former CEO of Indigo Aditya Ghosh too is associated with the venture.

While Jhunjhunwa­la has invested ~247.50 crore in the airline, another big name of Dalal Street, Madhav Bhatkuly, founder of investment fund New Horizon, has also put in money into the company.

Akasa Air plans to offer flights across India starting in the summer of 2022 with an endeavour to be the nation’s most dependable, affordable and greenest airline, the airline said in a statement.

“Akasa Air will serve all Indians regardless of their socio-economic or cultural background­s with warmth, inclusiven­ess and respect. Because at the end of the day, it is these qualities that connect people and cultures and help Indians realise their dreams,” Dube said.

The airline is in talks with US aerospace company Boeing for buying up to a hundred 737 Max aircraft. Airbus too has pitched its narrow body Airbus A320neo aircraft. Airbus Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer recently told PTI that the plane maker is in conversati­on with Akasa for an aircraft procuremen­t deal.

The airline has put together a management team. While promoter Vinay Dube is the CEO, Praveen Iyer has been appointed chief commercial officer. Iyer, a former colleague of Dubey at Jet Airways, is one of the founding members of the team along with Neelu Khatri who has been appointed as head of corporate affairs and was most recently president of Honeywell Business in India. The company hired Ankur Goel, former head of Indigo’s treasury and investor relations, as chief financial officer.

Sources aware of Akasa’s plans said the airline intended to place bulk aircraft orders and scale up to at least 20 aircraft in the first year of operation. He pointed out that scaling up fast would be crucial in order to compete with incumbent players such as Indigo. Market leadership gives pricing power to control fares, favouring the market leader.

“A number of airlines in India went bust because they did not have the right leadership. This is not the case with Akasa Air which is led by industry veterans such as Dube and Ghosh. There is buoyancy in the market which the airline can capitalize upon. Jet Airways' closure created room for a new pan India airline and Akasa Air could get the first mover advantage,” said aviation expert Manoj Chacko.

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 ?? ?? Rakesh Jhunjhunwa­la has invested ~247.50 crore in the airline
Rakesh Jhunjhunwa­la has invested ~247.50 crore in the airline

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