Friday, February 05, 2016

Now, we have a support team: AirAsia X CEO on re-entry

New Delhi: AirAsia X, the long-haul, low-cost affiliate carrier of the AirAsia group, re-entered the Indian market with the first of its four-times-a-week flights landing in Delhi on Tuesday night. Soon after, Benyamin Ismail, its Chief Executive, met BusinessLine. Edited excerpts from the meeting:

Could you spell out the road map for AirAsia X’s expansion into the Indian market?
The first stage is to come back where we left off, which is Delhi. The reason we chose Delhi is we took the opportunity of grabbing the extra bilateral that was available… We applied, we got it and we are flying four times a week.

I guess the next is to try and get bilaterals into Mumbai, a route which we have operated on in the past. If we can get that, then it will be massive for us. We will continue to fire fight to get the bilaterals.

At the moment, let us just focus on making Delhi work.

The first flight to Delhi was a success. The (passenger) load factor was 92 per cent. Looking at the next two months, the loads look good.

Any timeframe for more flights? Have you approached the authorities?
No. The regulatory guys are constantly asking for it. The difficult part of the bilaterals is we are utilising all our entitlements under it, while the Indian side is not utilising any (of its entitlements). So, the justification to give us more is hard when there is no Indian airline operating into Malaysia.

One of the reasons for AirAsia X withdrawing from Delhi was the high airport charges here. Have the charges been off-set by the global decline in fuel prices?
Yes and no. Fuel has helped us in terms of costs. Of course, when you look at that, your breakeven in terms of routes comes down, which is a positive thing.

The difference from the past is that we have a team here that on the ground supports us in terms of distribution.

We have the AirAsia India team which has been set up here. We also have a ready team which focuses on southern Indian routes into Malaysia. For example Bengaluru, Trichy, Kochi, which already fly into Kuala Lumpur.

We have the infrastructure. Sales support is there. That is why I was confident to come back.
05/02/16 Ashwini Phadnis/Business Line
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