AirAsia to invest $30 mn for Indian JV; to offer free tickets

New Delhi, July 3 (IANS) Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia initially plans to invest $30 million in its Indian joint venture airline with the Tata Group, its chief executive officer Tony Fernandes said here Wednesday.

"The potential of India was always there in my eyes. I was waiting for the market to become conducive for us so that we can stay here for a fairly long time and I think the tide is now turning very quickly. So we felt that this is the right time to come to India," he said, addressing a press meet.

Apart from this, the company is eyeing the Indian insurance market through its Tune Money venture. Tune Money is into travel protection plans and lifestyle protection plans.

It is also planning to expand its Tune Hotels - budget hotels - in India. At present it has one in Gujarat.

Fernandes is hopeful that the airline operations can start from October. Fernandes met Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh Tuesday. The company has already applied for a no-objection certificate.

Asked how much marketshare the company has been eyeing in the Indian low-cost carrier space, Fernandes said: "I am not here to take away marketshare. But given India's potential of 1.3 billion population, this could be the largest AirAsia operation."

The company is planning to start from south India, with Chennai as its head office.

Fernandes mentioned that the airline can have many bases in the southern part of the country like Bangalore, Chennai and Kochi. He added that the ministers in south India were cooperative with him.

"A small thing, which we can do is to inform and educate the people about benefits of their travel. We are not here for vested interest, we are here to deliver. I see ourselves emerging as a vibrant airline company with two-three big players eventually."

Fernandes plans to further bring down airline fares in India as he feels these are now ruling at a higher range. He pointed out that many domestic airline fares in India are higher than travelling to international destinations by AirAsia. The company also plans to look at international routes from India as Fernandes feels that "India is a fantastic location to connect to Africa and the Gulf countries".

Putting a lot of thrust on bringing down airfare, to make it more affordable for the common man, he said: "My dream is to replicate our tagline 'Everyone can fly', where every common man has flown, like in Malaysia. Competition brings more choice."

He plans to offer even a few free air tickets when the airline starts operations in India.

"The maids are going home every two-three months because of AirAsia in Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines. We have transformed quality of life for labour force. We are unbundling the fare and by giving you (passengers) the choice of whether you want it or not, we will enable more people to fly," he said.

The recruitment process for the Indian operations has started, AirAsia India head Mittu Chandilya confirmed. "We are recruiting around 200 people initially. We are hand-picking people."

Fernandes told IANS that the company is getting applications from the defunct Kingfisher Airlines' now-jobless ex-employees as well.

Speaking about aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices, Fernandes said though these were 30 percent higher in the Indian market, the company will find ways to mitigate this.

He also criticized Janata Party chief Subramanian Swamy for calling the company's deal with the Tata group as "fraudulent".

"It is a shame that India has lost many years to vested interest. The South (east) Asian aviation industry is far, far ahead of India. There are some bizarre rules; five years time before you can fly internationally! There are too many people who have vested interest, and they do not think of what India needs," he said.

Here are some other highlights of the press conference:

-- Company will allow upto 15 kg of free luggage like any other Indian carrier.

-- It is looking at redistribution of tickets in India through both online and offline channels. AirAsia runs a joint venture portal with Expedia and it is an exclusive online distribution channel for the airline.

-- Fernandes feels Air India should not be in the hands of Indian government anymore, it should be with a private player.

-- AirAsia is looking at leveraging Tata Group's experience in handling Indian politico-economic scenario into the new airline JV.

Matches

MORE TOP STORIES TODAY

Jadeja spins out Rajasthan in close chase

Jadeja spins out Rajasthan in close chase

IPL 7, GAME 10—Chennai beat Rajasthan by 7 runs after last-over scare. More »

Cleaning up the game starts with fans

Cleaning up the game starts with fans

... because, as recent events reveal, the BCCI has little intention of doing it. More »

Hope to be fit for next game - Kevin Pietersen

Hope to be fit for next game - Kevin Pietersen

With two heavy defeats at the hands of Bangalore and Chennai, Daredevils currently languish near the bottom of the table. More »

Chandimal axed as T20 captain, Malinga takes over

Chandimal axed as T20 captain, Malinga takes over

Sri Lanka's cricket selectors on Wednesday sacked Dinesh Chandimal as Twenty20 captain and replaced him with Lasith Malinga, while Angelo Mathews was… More »

'A blow to BCCI, could hurt autonomous status'

'A blow to BCCI, could hurt autonomous status'

The Supreme Court prefers that the Justice Mudgal panel further investigate the IPL corruption scandal. More »

Have the ECB played an unfair game?

Have the ECB played an unfair game?

Money talks, but it is in light of this ICC shakeup that the ECB's act of soliciting of another team's coach deteriorates from free-market aggression to… More »

Perfect Punjab trounce Hyderabad

Perfect Punjab trounce Hyderabad

IPL7, GAME 9—Maxwell (95, 43b), Balaji (4-13) set up 72-run win. More »

Mudgal panel drops bombshell in court

Mudgal panel drops bombshell in court

The Mukul Mudgal probe committee dropped a bombshell in the Supreme Court on Tuesday by making a sensational claim that it was forced to stop audio recording… More »

Farbrace quits for England post

Farbrace quits for England post

He will assist Peter Moores who was unveiled as the new England coach on Saturday. More »

Moin appointed to manage Pakistan team

Moin appointed to manage Pakistan team

Pakistan on Monday reappointed Moin Khan as chief selector and manager of the national team, a week after fellow former captain Rashid Latif turned down… More »

Chennai smash Delhi for first win

Chennai smash Delhi for first win

IPL7, MATCH 8—Raina-led middle order, superlative catching give CSK a 93-run win. More »

SC asks Mudgal committee to continue

SC asks Mudgal committee to continue

Mukul Mudgal has communicated to the court his willingness to take up the investigation and has been asked to specify the terms and modalities on April… More »

'BCCI reputation lowest in 80 years'

'BCCI reputation lowest in 80 years'

The former BCCI president says he was "disillusioned" by the happenings at the emergent working committee meeting on Sunday. More »

Injured Bravo to miss rest of IPL

Injured Bravo to miss rest of IPL

Dwayne Bravo is set to be sidelined for at least four weeks due to a shoulder problem. Bravo sustained the injury when attempting a catch on the boundary… More »

NZC contemplates domestic revamp

NZC contemplates domestic revamp

New Zealand Cricket has put forward a proposal to reinvent its domestic structure and allow up to 49% private investment into the six major associatio… More »

Punjab pull off another big chase

Punjab pull off another big chase

GAME 7, SHARJAH—Maxwell, Miller, Pujara chase down Rajasthan's 192. More »

T20 test for Cheteshwar Pujara

T20 test for Cheteshwar Pujara

The class act from Saurashtra may have to rethink his approach to the mannerless format. More »

Special meeting to replace Srinivasan

Special meeting to replace Srinivasan

The BCCI is likely to convene a special general body meeting (SGM) in May to replace N Srinivasan on the board's disciplinary committee. More »

Roach escapes injury after car crash

Roach escapes injury after car crash

The West Indies fast bowler lost control of his BMW sedan due to slippery road conditions in his native Barbados on Saturday. More »

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Shastri in proposed IPL probe panel

Some members stressed on the need for proposing names with an "impeccable record and clean image". More »

Day of Supreme reckoning

Day of Supreme reckoning

Apex court to decide on BCCI’s proposed new committee today. More »

Panel can help clean mess: Raghavan

Panel can help clean mess: Raghavan

The former CBI Director is one of the three candidates proposed by the BCCI to head the enquiry into the IPL betting and spot-fixing scandal. More »

Repose faith in Indian coaches

Repose faith in Indian coaches

All of them cost plenty of dollars which I feel is unnecessary for a two- month tournament, says former cricketer Yajurvindra Singh. More »

Cook relieved after period in limbo

Cook relieved after period in limbo

The England captain is looking forward to a fresh start after a dispiriting Ashes defeat last year. More »