AirAsia is keen to have more presence in India if the “aviation environment” and tax structure are “conducive and friendly” for low-cost airline operations, the group’s CEO, Tony Fernandes has said.

He felt that though the Indian government has allowed 49 per cent foreign direct investments in the country’s civil aviation sector, the cost of operating an airline were still higher than many developed nations.

“This is the power of AirAsia. Everyone wants us, but the right infrastructure and environment must be there for us to go there (India),” Fernandes was quoted by Malaysian news agency Bernama as saying.

“The airport tax is already very high and I even heard that they are going to further increase the tax, forcing many airlines to quit from certain destinations,” he said.

“If everything is right, then we will be stupid not to enter the Indian market, which boasts more than a billion populations,” Fernandes added.

Fernandes, an ethnic Indian, said the most crucial area that AirAsia always paid attention before venturing into a new market was keeping its cost down.

“It’s for that reason AirAsia’s medium and long-haul affiliate, AirAsia X, withdrew from flying to New Delhi and Mumbai,” he said.

Shortly after the Indian government gave the go-ahead for FDIs in the civil aviation and multi-brand retail on September 14, Fernandes, who is now based in Jakarta overseeing the AirAsia Asean regional expansion, had tweeted: “Fantastic news that India has opened up investments to foreign airlines.”

“With India opening up, this is fantastic news for airlines like AirAsia. Great that (the) Indian government has put people first,” he had said.

AirAsia currently operates daily flights to Bangalore, Tiruchirappalli, Kolkata, Kochi and Chennai and its affiliate ThaiAirAsia flies to Chennai and Kolkata.

(This article was published on October 9, 2012)
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