Akasa, India's newest airline, will conduct a proving flight with the country's Directorate General of Civil Aviation as early as next week as it looks to start commercial services by around the end of July, Chief Executive Officer Vinay Dube said Friday.
Akasa, backed by billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, will likely receive its air operator's certificate within days of the proving flight, apply for airport slots and start to sell tickets within a two to three week period, Vinay Dube said in an interview at the startup airline's office in Mumbai.
The value carrier's first routes will be domestic, with a focus on point-to-point services. International flights are on track to start in the second half of 2023, said Vinay Dube, a former Delta Air Lines Inc. veteran who also ran Jet Airways India Ltd.
"We don't believe in the hub concept. Akasa's network will be focusing on flights from Indian metro cities to tier two and tier three cities," Vinay Dube said.
Akasa, whose other backers include Aditya Ghosh, the executive who spearheaded low-cost carrer IndiGo for nearly a decade, has bold growth plans, intent on adding 18 aircraft in the year ending March 2023. The first delivery from a November order for 72 Boeing Co. 737 Max jets, worth $9 billion at sticker prices, is in hand and Asaka should take delivery of one to two planes a month, Vinay Dube said.
Cracking India's ultra-competitive aviation market won't see Akasa compete on fares alone. While the airline plans to be cost competitive, having superior customer service and an employee-centric culture will also be critical to its long term success, Vinay Dube said.
"I don't think India has excess supply -- India will need 1,000 planes over the next 20 years. The pie is growing faster in India," he said.
Indeed the country's Civil Aviation Minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said earlier this year that India may need to add as many as 120 jets every year to keep pace with demand. The country is gearing up by building airports even in the smallest of cities, training more pilots and crew as well as improving maintenance facilities.
Asaka has a pilot training center of its own in Delhi and on top of cabin crew has hired more than 100 pilots in preparation for the start of commercial services.
Dube also said that with a fleet of new aircraft powered by CFM International Inc. fuel-efficient LEAP-1B engines, the airline has the youngest, greenest fleet in India, if not the world.
"Akasa will have 15 to 17% fuel efficiency by flying brand new planes with brand new engines," he said. "Akasa will also get an edge on the cost of fuel owing to its operating procedures and practices."