Akasa, which has completed six months of operations, is targeting to have a weekly flight count of nearly 1,000 to approximately 20 destinations and a workforce of over 2,100 employees by August this year.
“We are exactly where we envisioned the airline to be within the first six months of operations. Of course, there may be some fluctuations here and there, but we continuously go back to our planning board to ensure we stay on track with our projections and reality,” said Praveen Iyer, co-founder and Chief Commercial Officer.
The airline crossed the one-million passenger mark on January 23. “By the end of this fiscal, we will cross 2 million.” As of December 2022, Akasa’s market share was 1.8 per cent.
The company will reach a fleet size of 20 aircraft by May. However, the industry is grappling with a supply chain issue. “The delivery after that is expected to arrive in August-September, but due to supply chain constraints, it may go to September-October. However, we will reach a reasonable size by the end of the year, not 40 though,” said Iyer.
Currently, Akasa has onboarded 1,500 employees. With each aircraft addition, Iyer said the airline adds 175 employees. “We should be around the 2,100-mark as we take delivery of our 20th aircraft,” he said, adding that would be a good time to consolidate and stabilise the network before expanding further.
“Akasa operates over 575 weekly flights, connecting 14 cities and we plan to add 3-4 more by the 20th aircraft. Our priority is to increase the frequency in existing city pairs instead of adding more destinations. By the end of March, we hope to reach 750 weekly flights and aim for 1,000 by August end,” he said.
Headquartered in Mumbai, Akasa is currently the third-largest operator from Bengaluru and it may soon become the second-largest frequency operator, too. When asked about making Bengaluru its operational hub, Iyer stated, “We won’t be a hub-and-spoke carrier, we’ll remain a point-to-point carrier. Our base may be in Bengaluru, but our fleet will be spread across the country.”
As the fleet grows, he said the company will need to find homes for the aircraft, but will continue to engage with all airports. He emphasised that their aircraft placement strategy in the first year of operations was done with a deliberate focus.
‘Not in rat race’
Today, IndiGo has the largest market share in India. According to industry experts, once consolidated, Air India and IndiGo could have a tiff over the first and second spots. Experts have suggested that internationally, the market is captured by three players while others cease to exist.
When asked if Akasa is aiming for the sweet spot of the third position, Iyer said, “We are not eying any spots. Our only intent is to build an airline that is for the common man. We want to make air travel affordable. We are not in a rat race.”
According to Iyer, the next two years will be strong for Akasa. He explained that by the end of this year, the number of flights a day is expected to reach 3,150-3,200, close to pre-Covid levels. Despite this, the demand for flights will still not be met, resulting in the continuation of the need gap.
“We didn’t plan it this way but the industry is still struggling, which gives us an edge. Akasa is just filling the demand gap, not adding more capacity than before Covid. We will continue to meet this demand until the end of the next fiscal year, which is good for the industry. The company will replace some of the current capacity, but the growth in capacity will not occur until four years from now. This is why the years FY24 and FY25 will be strong for the company,” he said.