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India has incredibly affordable airfares, says Akasa Air CEO Vinay Dube

India, which is one of the world’s fastest-growing civil aviation markets, is also seen in some quarters as price sensitive, especially with rising number of air travellers, including first-time fliers.

Screenshot 2024 03 25 085816NEW DELHI: India has “incredibly affordable” airfares and the country’s aviation market has the kind of growth potential where Akasa Air as well as other carriers can do well, according to the nearly two-year-old airline’s chief Vinay Dube.

As Akasa Air prepares to take the international skies on March 28 with the first overseas flight from Mumbai to Doha, Dube also asserted that the airline is not about “marketing gimmicks”.

Akasa Air is aiming to be among the world’s top 30 airlines by 2030 and will go public in future.

“We think we have a great financial future. Listing is in our future but you never say never. We hope to list some day,” he told PTI in an interview this week.

While acknowledging that aviation competition has always been intense, he said that as long as the focus is on fundamentals, there is enough room not just for Akasa Air to thrive in the future but for others as well.

“Thanks to the growth that we are going to see in India, it is not that Akasa will do well only if someone else does badly, no, Akasa can do well and others can do well, that is the kind of growth that India has to offer,” the airline’s Founder and CEO said.

The carrier, which started flying in August 2022, has a fleet of 24 planes and a domestic market share of 4.5 per cent.

To a query about air ticket prices, Dube said the country has some of the cheapest airfares.

India, which is one of the world’s fastest-growing civil aviation markets, is also seen in some quarters as price sensitive, especially with rising number of air travellers, including first-time fliers.

There have been concerns, mainly during festival seasons, that air ticket prices are high.

“I see fares to be some of the cheapest in the world as I saw them three months ago, six months ago. I think Indian airfares when you compare them to parts of Europe, East Asia, North America, you compare to any decent-sized aviation economy in the world, India has some of the most affordable airfares by a long margin, not just by Rs 10 or 100. Indian airfares are incredibly affordable,” Dube said.

Travel portal Cleartrip’s outgoing CEO Ayyappan Rajagopal said airfares are expected to go up, both on international and domestic segments, as there is high demand and more people are making bookings in advance.

“In the premium segment, the (price) sensitivity is not so high. There is a second set of consumers, they are a lot more bothered about pricing and they might even take three hops to reach a destination,” he told PTI.

Meanwhile, Akasa Air’s Dube said there is no shortage of pilots at the airline and that there won’t be any flight disruptions.

The revised flight duty time limitation norms that provide for increased rest time for pilots will come into force from June 1.

“We have got around 700 pilots at Akasa. We have no pilot shortage. I don’t want to just say no without giving numbers as you can make your own calculations on what an airline with 24 aircraft requires when it comes to pilots.

“We are focused on creating a highly reliable network. We want to be India’s most on-time airline. We want to make sure we have the lowest cancellation rate,” Dube said.

On whether there could be disruptions once the revised norms are implemented, he replied in the negative.

“Absolutely, 100 per cent you are not going to see disruptions. Reliability is intrinsic to everything we do at Akasa. Nobody should expect any disruptions in June,” he noted.

Regarding bilateral air traffic rights, the Akasa Air chief said there is plenty of room for international expansion.

Some Gulf carriers have been seeking enhanced flying rights to operate more flights to and from the country.

However, the government is not in favour of granting more bilateral flying rights.

“I think that there may be a couple of markets in the entire Gulf where bilaterals have saturated like Dubai and Sharjah, the best I know but places like Abu Dhabi have a lot of capacity, Dammam has open skies, we have got Riyadh, Jeddah, Kuwait, I think there is room in Bahrain, Muscat.

“So, if you ask me particularly about the Middle East, I don’t see issues. South East Asia has a lot of capacity in almost every market. So, I think we are good that there is plenty of room for expansion internationally,” Dube said.

When asked whether there is any particular tag that Akasa Air would like to be identified with, Dube said that personally, he does not like such a tag.

“We are India’s most on-time airline, lowest cancellation rates, best baggage, literally, we have got the best leg room in India, take your tape, measure out and measure it, we have got USB ports increasing in flights, the quality of food is fantastic, we think we have got some of the best-trained staff. I don’t have a tag, Akasa is not about marketing gimmicks. We are really there to serve the people with the best customer service,” he said.

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