MUMBAI/CHENNAI: This is a big fat wedding in India’s turbulent skies. One of the airline industry’s most aggressive entrepreneurs and AirAsia founder Tony Fernandes has brought the Tata Group back into the airline industry after 60 years. The India-origin Fernandes has also drawn in the family of Amit Bhatia, son-in-law of steel tycoon Lakshmi Mittal, pulling off a coup in the cash-strapped domestic aviation industry.
Asia’s biggest low-cost carrier, the Kuala Lumpur-based AirAsia, is floating a joint venture with Tata Sons, the holding company of India’s largest conglomerate, and Telestra Tradeplace, an investment vehicle of the Bhatia family, to launch a new airline in India. AirAsia will have 49% stake, Tatas 30% and Bhatia will hold 21% in the company, which will be headquartered in Chennai.
The JV hopes to start operations in the last quarter of this year under the AirAsia brand, the 48-year-old AirAsia CEO Fernandes said in a late-evening conference call with the media. AirAsia’s entry is expected to shake up India’s airline sector, which has seen airfares shoot up in recent past. The airline already flies into several south Indian cities, linking them with major Asian hubs at competitive fares.