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AirAsia went through some unfortunate incidents, says CEO Sunil Bhaskaran

New Delhi, PTI | Updated : 13 February 2019, 08:39 AM

AirAsia India had recently gone through some "unfortunate incidents", but was able to put everything behind it, Sunil Bhaskaran, the CEO of the company, said. In May last year, the CBI had registered a case against AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, Tata Trusts Managing Trustee R Venkataramanan and other executives for allegedly trying to manipulate government policies through corrupt means to get international licence for the airline. "If you look at the recent history of Air Asia, we have gone through some unfortunate incidents, issues which are not really comforting for any company. We have had the company without a CEO for six months.

"We had other issues in the past, because of which there had been a sense of uncertainty. But I think that is all behind us," Bhaskaran said at the CAPA India Aviation Summit 2019.

AirAsia India is a joint venture between the Tata Group, which owns 51 per cent stake, and Malaysia's AirAsia Berhad. Bhaskaran was appointed the chief executive officer (CEO) of the airline in October last year. Till this appointment, he was working in Tata Steel as vice president (corporate services).

Regarding pricing, he said, "It is a component of the market, it is for the best of the consumer and in the long run, it will find its own level. It is like any industry, which goes through its ups and downs.

"In terms of pricing, I think it is a market dynamic and nobody can control it.... From outside, it looks like there is a lack of discipline. The financials of most airlines have not been positive, but there are some airlines whose financials have been particularly bad, probably skewing the pricing and the price culture in the market."

"We have huge experience, which has come on board now. Now that the Tatas have taken 51 per cent stake, there is also a large sense of confidence that this airline is here for the long term," he added.

Discussing the company's growth plans, Bhaskaran said, "In terms of growth, we are hoping to have six aircraft in the next 12 months. We are looking at rationalising our entire network.... There is this huge issue of airports and slots, we will see how best we can perform."

"I think the Indian market is very skewed between two large metros -- Delhi and Mumbai. We did not have enough presence in these (metros). We are seeing to improve this," he said. 

The airline currently has around five per cent market share. It is one of the smaller players in the Indian aviation market with 20 aircraft in its fleet. "We will be looking at flying internationally. So, whenever those approvals come -- we will be completing five years in May -- so, whenever it happens, we look forward to starting our international operations," Bhaskaran said.

Talking about his over-three-month experience in the aviation industry, he said, "For anyone from outside, it is strange to believe that there is an industry that grows at 18 per cent annually for five years and still, all players lose money. "I think the financials may show some positive results, but if you see the operational results of the last couple of quarters, I do not think anybody is making money. So, it looks difficult to believe that there could be a sector like this."

First Published: Wednesday, February 13, 2019 08:39 AM
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