Indian startup airline Akasa Air, founded by Vinay Dube and backed by many colleagues who used to earlier work together at Jet Airways, had its first Boeing MAX 8 land in Delhi after a long multi-leg delivery trip from Seattle. On the occasion, Vinay Dube met us at the training centre in Gurugram for a brief conversation. Vinay Dube: ‘Akasa Air is there to stay for the long-term’.

Dube is not ready to share all the details of what is the service levels that the airline plans, but he is very bullish on the India growth story. He indicated to AirInsight that the airline already had over 250 people on board and that they are all building an airline for the long term. He also shared that the second aircraft will be on its way within a month and that the airline will have at least two 737-8 aircraft to launch service with. 

From there, every month between August to March 2023, Akasa expects to have two MAX 8 jets delivered, making it a total of 18 aircraft in their fleet by March. All of these aircraft will have 189 seats. Over the subsequent four years, Akasa will have the rest of their 54 aircraft delivered, taking them up to 72 aircraft by March 2027. The aircraft that join after March 2023 will be the high-density MAX 8-200. 

Akasa Air founder and CEO, Vinay Dube. (Ajay Awtaney)

The airline aspirant will now use their first aircraft to invite the DGCA, India’s aviation regulator, to route proving flights. Akasa would have to fly about ten hours over various days per a schedule set by the aviation regulator and demonstrate their capabilities to respond to multiple scenarios set out by the regulator on board. This is a precondition to receiving their Air Operators Permit, which is the name given to the license to operate a scheduled airline in India. 

Akasa expects to receive their Air Operators Permit in the next couple of weeks, subject to everything falling in place for them. From there, they need to apply for slots formally and receive them from the airports. From there, depending on what slots they receive, they hope to put their tickets up for sale and launch by the end of July.

First destinations yet to be confirmed

In terms of network plans, Akasa Air told AirInsight that the primary mission of the airline is to fly from Metro airports to tier-two and tier-three airports. However, which cities will turn up first will purely depend on what slots will come to them in the initial days. Also, Akasa expects their route network to evolve pretty quickly given they want to raise their fleet to 18 aircraft within the first year of operation itself.

On the international front, Akasa does intend to enter the space when they have complied with the rules that need an Indian airline to have twenty aircraft in the fleet to enter international operations, which should ideally happen in 2023 itself. 

Vinay Dube repeatedly claimed that Akasa would have a competitive cost structure. Ideally, there should be no legacy costs in terms of distribution or contracts for the airline, with it being a start-up airline at the moment. Additionally, one has to factor in the cost of getting new aircraft in, which will be hopefully lower for Akasa, given they are Boeing’s only MAX customer in India for now, and also took up some of their not taken-up aircraft. SpiceJet has not picked up any new aircraft since the MAX’s ungrounding and has not yet returned its entire fleet of inducted MAX aircraft to the skies. Some SpiceJet NTU Aircraft have been since given to Southwest Airlines.

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Ajay Awtaney is the Founder and Editor of Live From A Lounge (LFAL), a pioneering digital platform renowned for publishing news and views about aviation, hotels, passenger experience, loyalty programs, travel trends and frequent travel tips for the Global Indian. He is considered the Indian authority on business travel, luxury travel, frequent flyer miles, loyalty credit cards and travel for Indians around the globe.

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