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AirAsia to start red eye flights to improve aircraft utilisation

Has itself a target of aircraft utilisation of 16 hours as against the current 13 hours

Sharmistha Mukherjee  |  New Delhi 

To improve aircraft utilisation AirAsia India is looking at starting red-eye operations in India.

A red-eye flight is any that departs late in the night and reaches early next morning.

The airline, which commenced operations in June, has set a target of aircraft utilisation of 16 hours against the current 13 a day.

The airline is looking at starting late-night domestic flights at competitively priced tickets.

The decision to commence red-eye flights has been code-named the Armada Brief.

AirAsia group chief executive Tony Fernandes on Thursday said his airline will get more aggressive in expanding operations in India.

The airline will accelerate fleet expansion plans and have 15-20 aircraft by the end of next year.

In a reversal of stance Fernandes also said AirAsia India will start flights to Mumbai and Delhi soon and take on the ‘big boys’ on metro routes.

“In Incredible India, Mumbai is changing by the day. AirAsia India will be starting in this metro soon. We are coming,'' Fernandes tweeted. The remark was greeted both by excitement and surprise as Fernandes had announced last year that AirAsia India will skip Mumbai and Delhi due to high airport charges.

While Fernandes did not indicate a date, sources said AirAsia was likely to launch Mumbai flights in early 2015. It has not applied for slots at the Mumbai airport for the winter schedule beginning October-end.

AirAsia India commenced operations in May and operates two Airbus A320 planes from Bangalore to Goa, Chennai, Kochi, Chandigarh and Jaipur. The airline expects to add 3-4 additional A320s and launch flights to Guwahati over the next few months. It recorded a load factor of 73 percent in August which is higher than Air India and Jet Airways but lower than other low cost airlines.

AirAsia is facing stiff competition on all its routes with IndiGo and Jet Airways adding flights on these routes. The airlines are also locked in a fare war to increase the traffic.

"We are not surprised (about plans to start Mumbai flight). It is on expected lines. Challenges faced on current routes may force a rethink on entire network strategy which means a more direct competition with other key carriers,'' said Kapil Kaul of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.

First Published: Sat, September 27 2014. 00:39 IST
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