Interview | Akasa Air: Will get first aircraft in April, flights from May or June, says founder

Vinay Dube, Akasa Air's Founder, Managing Director and CEO.

Vinay Dube, Akasa Air's Founder, Managing Director and CEO. | Photo Credit: Special Arrangement

The country’s newest airline, Akasa Air, expects to get its first aircraft in April 2022 and launch operations by May or June. In the first 18 months, it will serve domestic routes with a focus on metro to tier-2 cities and, thereafter, expand to international destinations. Vinay Dube, Akasa Air’s founder, Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, shared his plans for the airline with Jagriti Chandra in an e-mail interview.

When will Akasa Air launch its flights?

We expect our first aircraft delivery in the second half of April 2022 with the intention to start commercial operations by late May or early June of 2022.

How are you preparing for the launch — where are you setting up your office, how many flight crew, ground personnel, engineering staff do you plan to hire?

Our corporate office is in Mumbai where our leadership and support functions will operate from. We have over 50 employees on board today and expect to gradually fill relevant positions, including all frontline roles, based on key milestones leading to the launch of our first commercial flight. We have started hiring pilots, flight attendants, airport employees and other operating personnel.

Akasa has signed an order of 72 Boeing MAX planes. You won't have all these planes from day one. Can you share the fleet size you will start operations with, and how you plan to expand the fleet thereafter?

We have a firm order of 72 Boeing MAX aircraft to be delivered over five years. In the first 12 months, we expect to have about 18 aircraft in operation with the gradual induction of 54 additional aircraft over the next four years at a rate of approximately 12 to 14 aircraft per year beyond the first year.

Will it be a budget airline, will the airfares be comparable to IndiGos and SpiceJets of the world, how many classes will you be offering, what kind of meals can one expect onboard, will the cost of meals be included in the fare?

I would like to take this opportunity to correct the perception or misrepresentation that we are an ULCC [Ultra low-cost carrier]. We do not aspire or have any ambition to be an ULCC. We certainly want to have a competitive cost structure and that is a part of setting up Akasa Air correctly from day one.

We will be a low-cost carrier. We want to be an affordable airline which is dependable, warm, efficient, and reliable that focuses on customer service. We will have a single fleet type with all-economy seating and buy-on board service. Being warm, considerate and efficient in the way we treat our customers will be a core focus of ours.

What will your domestic network look like — what will be your target customer base?

We are working closely with both the private airport operators and the Airport Authority of India to understand their availability of slots, parking bay, check-in counters and other airport infrastructure that our airline would need to operate out of.

Our ability to finalise operational bases is dependent on the availability of these items and the related approvals from the various airports. Finalising these items in conjunction with the airports will enable us to build our network plan.

Our initial network focus will be to serve Metro to tier 2 cities so in that respect Bengaluru, Delhi, Mumbai, etc. will be important focus cities for us. We expect to have clarity in the coming months as our discussions with the airport operators mature.

With respect to our target audience, as much as we will focus on a frequent flyer, we will equally endeavour to create opportunities for a first-time traveller and make flying warm, efficient, reliable, and affordable to all.

What plans do you have for international operations, and how soon after your launch do you plan to start flying overseas.

We will limit ourselves to domestic routes in the first 12-18 months, focussing on Metro to tier-2 cities. The Boeing MAX aircraft range allows us to operate across the SAARC, ASEAN and Middle East regions and we will explore such opportunities as soon as practical. We anticipate starting international operations in the second half of the calendar year 2023.

You are a new entrant and, therefore, the question on everyone's mind is what will be the novelty factor —what will you provide to the market that is not already there?

We are working hard and are focused on creating a culture of customer centricity within our organisation. I firmly believe that our employees make the airline, and they will make a significant difference in how we treat our customers and how we are perceived.

We want to be a dependable and affordable airline delivering warm, efficient, and reliable service cross every touch point. While price (fare) is important, it will not be the only differentiator. We would like to use technology and data analytics much more than what we have used in our former airlines. We will begin by differentiating ourselves with the shopping, booking and payment experience and extend this differentiation to the airport, in-flight and post-flight experience as well.

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Printable version | Feb 13, 2022 8:40:06 am |