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Rakesh Jhunjhunwala backed Akasa in talks with Airbus: Top official

By Saima Siddiqui 
Updated Date

New Delhi: The largest commercial aerospace, Airbus, is reportedly in talks with Rakesh Jhunjhunwala-backed new airline ‘Akasa’ for an aircraft procurement deal, a top official of the European plane manufacturer has said.

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Akasa has been in discussions with US plane manufacturer Boeing to procure its B737 Max planes, multiple media reports had said two months back. Airbus’s A320 series of aircraft competes with Boeing’s B737 series of planes in the aviation market.

“We are not in the business of countering offers but we are having conversations with Akasa. Of course, we do,” Airbus’ Chief Commercial Officer Christian Scherer replied, when asked by PTI if he plans to counter the offer put by Boeing to Akasa.

Akasa is backed by ace investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala and has former IndiGo president Aditya Ghosh on its board. It aims to start operations by the summer of 2022 plans to operate approximately 70 planes in the next four years.

When asked if he can tell what stage the negotiations are with Akasa, Scherer replied: “That is really private. What I can tell you is that when you start an airline in India, what is the benchmark you are looking at. It is pretty obvious, isn’t it? It is IndiGo and to some extent Go First and SpiceJet, but the big guy is IndiGo.”

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IndiGo flies the most successful single aisle airplane in the world and it is also the most modern, which is the A320 and now the A321, he mentioned.

“So, it is only natural that a new venture in India should look at that benchmark,” he added.

IndiGo — India’s largest carrier with around 50 per cent share of the Indian domestic aviation market — operates only Airbus’s narrow body aircraft. Among all Indian carriers, only SpiceJet and Air India Express operate Boeing’s narrow body aircraft.

A narrow-body aircraft like A320 and B737 has a smaller fuel tank and therefore, it can fly for shorter distances.

Scherer, who spoke to PTI on the sidelines of 77th annual general meeting of International Air Transport Association last week, stated that Air India would reinvent and reposition itself after its privatisation and it should consider procuring A350 aircraft.

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“We are saying as ‘the international fly carrier of India’, you (Air India) want to have best of the best, and that would clearly include the A350 aircraft,” he added.

Airbus’s A350 and Boeing’s B777 are wide body aircraft that can fly for longer distances.

On short range missions, the difference between a good airplane and a bad airplane is smaller than on a long-range missions, when we have to fly for 16 hours and 14 hours, Scherer mentioned.

“That is where the difference between a very efficient airplane and a less efficient airplane becomes huge. That is why I am so excited about the potential of A350 airplane in India because we believe India needs to regain a little bit of ownership of its international traffic of what is the third largest aviation market in the world,” he added.

Airbus would be positioning A350 as a far superior alternative to B777, he said.

“We would be very happy to see Air India consolidate around the A320s… But again, I would like to underline the opportunity that Air India has to really optimise the wide-body side of the business,” he mentioned.

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On October 8, the Indian government announced that Tata Sons’s wholly-owned subsidiary Talace Private Limited has beaten a consortium led by SpiceJet promoter Ajay Singh by offering 18,000 crore to win the bid to acquire debt-laden Air India.

On the question of increasing the number of training centres in India, Scherer said: “We have a training centre on the outskirts of Delhi…Of course, as the fleet grows, there is going to be a significant opportunity to grow training centres for ourselves or in association with our partners and our customers.”

“That is an activity and a business that is going to grow and it should grow in India. Airbus is a big presence in India,” he added.

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