Akasa Air
Akasa will receive its 20th Boeing in a few days, meeting the government's minimum fleet requirement for a carrier to start overseas operations. Image Credit: Twitter/Gulf News Archives

Akasa Air, India’s newest airline, is planning to add up to 800 new workers by the end of this fiscal year as it prepares to start international services, CEO Vinay Dube told Bloomberg News.

The low-cost carrier, which began flying commercially in 2022, is considering expanding its network to the Middle East, Southeast Asia and other parts of South Asia - Sri Lanka, Nepal and Bangladesh, keeping single-class configuration on the routes, Dube said in an interview on Thursday.

Akasa, meaning sky, employs about 3,000 people and controls 4.9 per cent of India’s aviation market, where competition is fierce and many airlines have failed. The graveyard includes former tycoon Vijay Mallya’s Kingfisher Airlines Ltd and Jet Airways India Ltd. Right now, Go Airlines India Ltd. isn’t flying as it battles insolvency, and SpiceJet Ltd is also under pressure after a spate of losses.

Covid caused chaos for carriers in India, and elsewhere, but travel demand is rebounding strongly. International traffic to and from India should grow at an annual rate of 13 per cent over the next 10 years, up from 8 per cent historically, with Indian airlines increasing their share “significantly”, HSBC analysts including Achal Kumar and Ali Naqvi wrote in a note on Thursday.

Passenger traffic in India is above pre-pandemic levels despite fares being 30 per cent higher, they said.

Akasa isn’t alone in stepping up hiring efforts - market leader IndiGo and Air India Ltd plan to recruit thousands more staff, and both have blockbuster orders for hundreds of aircraft from Airbus SE and Boeing Co.

Dube is finalising an order for narrowbody jets that he says will be in triple figures in terms of number of planes, with an announcement likely before the end of the year. Akasa ordered four more Boeing 737-8 aircraft last month, increasing its order book to 76 jets to be delivered by March 2027.

Akasa will receive its 20th Boeing in a few days, meeting the government’s minimum fleet requirement for a carrier to start overseas operations, Dube said. He said the airline is “well capitalised”, dismissing concerns about funding after the death of billionaire founder Rakesh Jhunjhunwala in August.

The airline, operated by SNV Aviation Pvt, hasn’t escaped the widespread supply-chain disruptions beleaguering the industry. Many of Akasa’s planes don’t have USB charging ports, which are supplied by third parties, Dube said. With deliveries starting to come in, the ports will be retrofitted on aircraft, requiring some assistance from Boeing, he said.