Fernandes, who is here for World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting, said that AirAsia India is fully prepared from its side for the launch and is waiting for final government approvals that should come soon and help it begin flights by March-April this year. (Agencies)
"I think we are coming very close and March-April should be time when we should begin the India operations," the Malaysia-based airline major AirAsia's Chief Executive Officer said.
AirAsia has partnered with Tata group and Arun Bhatia-led Telstra Tradeplace for AirAsia India, which is looking to run low-cost passenger airline service in the country.
Fernandes said that all preparatory work has been completed by the company for launch of its flights and it is just waiting to "open the sale" of the tickets.
Known to have revolutionised the airline market in Malaysia and some other Asian countries through low-cost airfares, AirAsia chief said that the strategy for India would be to offer "cheapest" possible tickets.
"We have to be the cheapest and stimulate the market. We have to allow the common man to fly. That is my message to the Indian government and the state governments that flying is not only for the rich," he said.
"What I want to say is that flying is a great economic driver and to get more people flying, we have to reduce the costs. This may be hard for the state governments, because aviation fuel tax is a good cash cow, but if you see in medium to long term, the benefits of flying are huge. You can see the success in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and many other places and we can do the same in India as well," Fernandes said.
High taxes and other costs have been a major reason for AirAsia thinking to start its domestic flights in India with Chennai as a hub and not the bigger centres like Delhi and Mumbai.
Expressing optimism, Fernandes said that some state governments are open to the idea of lowering air travel costs and more states are looking at this.
When asked whether people should expect dramatically low prices at the time of launch of flights in India, which AirAsia has done in other markets, Fernandes replied in affirmative.
Fernandes, who is here for World Economic Forum (WEF) Annual Meeting, said that AirAsia India is fully prepared from its side for the launch and is waiting for final government approvals that should come soon and help it begin flights by March-April this year.