While the merger of Air India Express and AirAsia India progresses, the airlines now function under one common management as one legal entity. They are still operating with two different Air Operators Certificates and two different fleets, though (AirAsia India was an A320 operator), and Air India Express is a Boeing 737 operator. Although some A320s are now being crossed over to Air India Express to operate flights internationally as well.
Air India Express to be a dominant Indian Carrier going forward.
Campbell Wilson, the CMD of Air India, gave some insights into how he sees the airline business of the group expanding going forward. Clearly acknowledging that the Indian market is largely a low-cost operation, he mentioned that in the future, a lot of the domestic growth around the country would be powered by Air India Express.
In his words,
The Market Speaks. The Domestic Market on most routes is predominantly a low-cost one which is why Air India Express, the low-cost carrier within the group, will predominantly be the domestic operator for the group.
This is already being seen. Air India recently vacated some operations where Air India Express took over. In the past we wrote about how Air India Express would withdraw from routes where business class capacity is necessary, and Air India would withdraw from non-trunk routes. This was indicated again by Wilson in interviews to various Indian business media on September 25, 2023. He said,
Clearly, the metro-metro markets and those that have a high degree of international connectivity will still be served by a full-service proposition, but increasingly, the proportion and the growth rate of the low-cost business domestically will be in favour of the low-cost airline.
The signing of the code-share agreement between Air India and AIX also points in the direction of this being the future of the growth between the two carriers, where Air India will put its code on the flights of the low-cost carrier with a meal and baggage allowance to match their own allowance.
Even at Air India’s sister airline, Vistara, there is a sub-fleet of A320neo aircraft which operate in an all-economy configuration only; because of the routes they operate on, the airline does not expect that there will be a premium that customers will be willing to pay for a full-service offering.
Don’t be surprised if, in the coming years, you see a lot of Air India group flights being operated by Air India Express. Over the years, this model has been tried out by various players (Kingfisher/Red, Jet Airways/JetLite and JetKonnect). The CEO of Air India expects a dominant role for Air India Express in flight operations inside the country in the coming years, as a comparable to IndiGo.
What do you think of the thought process of Air India group to move along a lot of flight operations to Air India Express?
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