AirAsia might launch flights to Bangalore, Kolkata, Coimbatore, Kochi, Nagpur and Bhubaneshwar from its Chennai base when the Malaysia-based low-cost airline begins its India operations by the end of this year, according to an aviation website.
Airline Network and News Analysis, a website tracking route planning and network development news, has evaluated AirAsia's potential network in India before naming these cities. The website's predictions are based on the potential passenger market size, distance from Chennai and competition.
Tony Fernandes, the airline's group chief executive officer, has earlier said the carrier will link tier II and III cities from Chennai with three-four airbus A320s in its initial launch phase. Fernandes has also ruled out operations to Delhi and Mumbai, because of high aeronautical tariffs.
An email query sent to Air Asia seeking comments on this story remained unanswered till press time.
However, an official involved in the launch of the service in India said all these routes were possible. "It’s too early to say which routes AirAsia will fly and which will be the inaugural service,'' the official said, requesting anonymity.
"As low-cost airlines typically like to join-the-dots’, Bangalore and Kolkata would seem to be the most likely tier-I opportunities, as AirAsia already flies to both destinations from Kuala Lumpur. Competition on the Kolkata route will be against Jet Airways, SpiceJet, Air India and IndiGo – a combined 56 weekly flights – and it will be fiercer on Bengaluru, where the same four airlines fly 101 weekly services,'' the website says.
It also states AirAsia could look to start new routes from Chennai. Currently, there are no direct flights from Chennai to Guwahati, Lucknow, Jaipur, Srinagar, Nagpur, Bhubaneshwar and Indore. The website claims the airline could launch flights to Nagpur and Bhubaneshwar, which have connectivity with Mumbai and Delhi, but do not directly have air link to Chennai. Another possible route includes Chennai-Surat, according to the websites.
The routes which AirAsia will fly will also depend on whether it secures a national operating permit or regional permit. While civil aviation minister Ajit Singh said there would be no problem in AirAsia getting a national permit, a section of officials in the ministry believe the airline should first be granted a regional permit.
Other issues related to potential network will depend on route dispersal guidelines, which make it mandatory on airlines to fly certain routes, including those to the northeast or Andaman, and availability of slots.