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AirAsia India CEO Mittu posing with the AOP

AirAsia India CEO Mittu holding the AOP

Air Asia India receives its AOP at 6:15pm IST. Landmark in Indian Aviation. Article also counters certain incorrect and misleading statements in Business Standard.

AirAsia India received its Air Operator Permit (AOP) today, at 18:15hrs IST. The Chief Executive of the airline, Mittu Chandilya, was at Delhi to receive the AOP.

Tweeted Tony Fernandes, AirAsia Group CEO, at 18:37 IST, “History has been made today in Aviation. Everything has been hard for Airasia but we never give up. Today Airasia India has got APPROVAL.”(sic) That was followed by, “What a battle that was. proud day for me and all airasia all stars”(sic)

This development follows a tweet from AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes, on May 5th: “I think huge week for Airasia. I feel that Airasia India will be approved very soon.” (sic).

AirAsia India concluded its proving flights-the last stage in the award of an AOP-on May 02, 2014. The two day-long proving flights saw the airline fly non-revenue passengers, which included airline staff and inspecting DGCA officers, to Kochi, Bangalore, and Kolkatta, from Chennai, to satisfy a March 2014 revision by the DGCA that requires an AOP applicant to fly a minimum of 5 sectors and 10 hours.

Revised Crew Remuneration

Along with this imminent AOP award today, the airline plans to upward-revise the salaries of its staff. Captains at AirAsia India reportedly are paid INR 1,60,000 (Indian Rupee One lakh Sixty Thousand) less than what IndiGo offers, per month, which results in an annual difference of INR 19,20,000. (Indian Rupee Nineteen Lakh Twenty thousand). This difference in pay was justified with the phase of the airline: non-operational.

The exact increment is unknown, but is believed to be competitive with prevailing market rates. Effective December 2013, IndiGo hiked the salaries of its pilots. Captains received a pay hike of around 15%, while that of cabin crew close to doubled. This salary increment checked the outflow of pilots from the airline.

Few pilots, who had joined AirAsia India early, left the airline to join IndiGo in light of the delays and uncertainties that surrounded the AOP, and the lower remuneration. This long drawn wait had partly demotivated some pilots, but has ensured that only the loyalists and believers are with the company when it starts operations.

However, few pilots left AirAsia India with hesitation, purely due to financial commitments.

Business Non-Standard

Business Standard came out with a piece “Meet AirAsia’s multitasking pilots; they do the cargo, too”, which unfortunately is misleading and partly incorrect.

All pilots can carry out checks known as transit checks, between flights. There is no necessity for an engineer to be involved with this check unless an issue requires rectification. Pilots are usually not authorized to rectify the issue. Pilots in every airline perform a “walk-around” to check the aircraft before departure, to look for signs of visible damage, such as worn tires, or from bird hits. If everything looks fine, no action is required. However, if something is out of place, an engineer’s opinion, involvement and clearance is required.

Such transit checks add an extra level of safety, and are practiced world over.

As far as Cabin crew are concerned, no cabin crew will be expected to perform the load and trim sheet. Errors in the load and trim are unforgivable, with fatal consequences. The cabin crew will perform only those duties which are required of them: cabin safety. Sources in the airline deny the cabin crew being involved with ticketing, and load & trim sheets. However, AirAsia Bhd cabin crew check the boarding passes at the apron entrance, while here, that check might be performed by cabin crew at the entrance to the aircraft, possibly at the foot of the air-stairs.

No pilot or cabin crew will handle the cargo, as suggested by the title of the BS story.

Not all flights have a turnaround time of 30-35 minutes. SpiceJet targets 20 minutes on some of its Q400 flights. Air Costa targets 20minutes on its Embraer E170s and 25 minutes on its E190s. The 25 minutes that AirAsia India targets will, however, be the best for a Boeing 737 or an A320 in India. 20 minutes, however, seems too optimistic.

Indian budget carriers achieve more than 12 block hours, contrasting what was reported. GoAir presently has the best aircraft utilisation in the country, with some of its airplanes flying patterns that start at 05:20AM and land at 12:50AM: a good 19hrs30min every day, picking up a total block time of 14hr15min daily. AirAsia India will not be the only airline to efficiently utilise its aircraft, though with a 20-25 minute turnaround, 16hrs block time is achievable, and may set a record in India.