Mumbai: AirAsia India CEO Mittu Chandilya is not quitting the airline, AirAsia Group chief Tony Fernandes said today as he announced that the 2-year old Indian carrier would “shortly” add two aircraft as part of its fleet expansion plans.
“I read about Mittu calling it quits from you guys. I absolutely deny it. There is no substance to the rumours,” the Malaysian airline group chief told reporters at the Make in India week here.
Unconfirmed reports had a few days ago said that Chandilya has put in his papers. To questions on the loss-making airline’s much-delayed fleet expansion plan, Fernandes said two more planes would be inducted “shortly and a dozen later” but did not put a time line to these deliveries.
AirAsia India, which currently has six Airbus A320-200 planes, is a joint venture in which Malaysia’s AirAsia Bhd holds 49 per cent, Tata Sons Ltd 41 per cent and Arun Bhatia of Telestra Tradeplace Pvt Ltd the rest.
On the issue of 5/20 rule to enable an Indian carrier fly abroad, Fernandes said “all I am looking for is the ease of doing business. I hope basically your aviation sector is made easy”. The rule allows only those Indian airlines which have a 20 aircraft fleet and have operated on the domestic sector for five years to fly abroad.
Besides 5/20 rule, he said “your airports are very costly and your fuel taxes are one of the highest. Please make businees easier to do.” He replied in the affirmative to questions on further capital infusion in AirAsia India but did not elaborate.
AirAsia India and Tata-Singapore Airlines venture Vistara are the prime opponents of the 5/20 rule, which is being supported by almost all major Indian carriers.
Regarding reported disagreements between the partners of AirAsia India, Fernandes said the Tatas were “a fantastic partner” but parried questions on some objections allegedly raised by the third partner, businessman Arun Bhatia, in a board room battle which had reportedly erupted recently. On whether the Group had “underestimated” the Indian aviation market, Fernandes said “never. But we are taking time to understand it better. … And aviation is a long-term business and we are here to for the long-term as well.”