Sunday, August 07, 2022

Maiden flight of Rakesh Jhunjhunwala backed Akasa, takes off

The country’s youngest airline Akasa Air formally launched commercial operations when its maiden flight, QP1101, left Mumbai at 10.05 for Ahmedabad on Sunday morning. The fully booked flight carried a complement of 189 passengers as well as the cockpit and cabin crew.

Flagging off the flight virtually from the Ministry of Civil Aviation headquarters in New Delhi, union aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia said, “An old Hindi saying goes that a dark night is always followed by a new dawn. This indeed is a new dawn, a new awakening for the civil aviation sector in India in many ways than one.”

The minister said the aviation sector globally had been through a very trying time in the past decade or two, with several black swan events leaving a deep impact on its fortunes.

“In India, this sector that once saw a plethora of new entrants, new entrepreneurs and new ideas, has over the past decade unfortunately been witness to the closure of many visionary airlines. And, therefore, this function on a crisp Sunday morning, heralds a new dawn in many ways for our sector in India,” the minister said.

Akasa’s launch is also significant as this is the first time in eight years that a major scheduled carrier with India-registered livery has launched operations after a gap of almost eight years.

Minister of state for civil aviation General Vijay Kumar Singh, mentioned, “It’s a great occasion when a new airline starts flying in the skies in India, with a very appropriate name Akasa (sky). May you rule the skies and create history in the aviation market of India.”

The carrier’s main promoter, a jubilant stock market bull Rakesh Jhunjhunwala was all praise for the government’s help in ensuring that all approvals for the launch were processed promptly.

“They say India has a very bad bureaucracy. But the cooperation that the ministry of civil aviation has given us is unparalleled. Nowhere in the world is an airline conceived in 12 months!” he said.

Responding to General Singh’s wishes that the carrier may set new benchmarks in the days ahead, Jhunjhunwala quipped that Akasa was already doing so as the comfortable seating offered on its aircraft had forced market leader IndiGo to also place orders for new seats. In July, India’s largest airline announced that its 75 new Airbus aircraft due from January 2023 will come outfitted with seats from German manufacturer Recaro.

Often referred to as India’s Warren Buffett, Jhunjhunwala has invested $35 million for a 40 per cent stake in the venture.

Commending Team Akasa on the launch, Maharashtra’s deputy chief minister, Devendra Fadnavis said “The vision of the state government is to make Maharashtra a preferred investment destination for aviation in India with a focus on creating cost-effective aviation infrastructure, seamless regional air connectivity, and a sustainable aviation ecosystem.”

Incidentally, along with LCC Go First, Akasa is presently the only scheduled carrier that is currently headquartered out of the city of Mumbai, once India’s undisputed aviation capital. The past few years have witnessed the exodus of iconic airline brands such as Air India and Jet Airways from India’s commercial capital to the Delhi National Capital Region (NCR).

07/08/22 Manish Pant/Business Today

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