The Directorate General of Civil Aviation is expected to clear AirAsia’s operating permit this week, paving the way for the launch of the budget airline’s India operations. AirAsia India is a joint venture of AirAsia Berhad, Malaysia, the Tata group and Telestra Tradeplace, and will launch services from its Chennai hub with Airbus A320s. A senior DGCA official who did not want to be named said, “Our team is in Chennai to conduct inspections and assess preparedness. If no deficiencies are found we will clear the application.” He added the application could be cleared in the next few days. AirAsia has said it will fly to smaller cities in south India and open up new routes. It has listed Bangalore, Tiruchirapalli, Madurai, Coimbatore, Cochin, Goa, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, Jaipur and Pune as destinations. The airline, known for its very cheap fares, is yet to announce its route network. AirAsia is facing a legal challenge from local airlines and Bharatiya Janata Party MP Subramanian Swamy, who has filed a petition against the issue of permit to the budget carrier in the Delhi High Court. Swamy has also approached the Election Commission, asking it to restrain DGCA from issuing the permit.
His petition will come for hearing on Wednesday. The civil aviation ministry said in its response to the Election Commission earlier this month that AirAsia’s application for a permit was made last October, much before the elections were announced and the model code of conduct set in. “The issuance of an air operator’s permit is not a new scheme and does not involve any sanctions or expenditure from the government,” the ministry said in its letter. The permit would be subject to the decision of the Delhi High Court, the ministry added. Last month, AirAsia India took delivery of its first Airbus A320 aircraft configured for 180 all-economy seats. The plane comes with a wing-tip device to reduce fuel burn and emission and is powered by CFM engines. The airline has permission to import nine A320 aircraft for its Indian operations. The Indian fleet will be drawn from the 475 A320 family aircraft ordered by the AirAsia Group. The airline also began hiring employees for security and guest services this week. “We are fully confident that with our new A320 fleet we will provide the Indian passenger the service and convenient travel options already offered by the AirAsia Group elsewhere in the region,” AirAsia India Chief Executive Mittu Chandilya had said on receiving the first aircraft.