It’s been a year since Indian budget airline Akasa Air took to the skies for the first time. The carrier’s promoters dared to start a business during an era considered one of the worst in aviation history. But looking at Akasa’s first year, the decision does not appear too bold in hindsight.
On August 7th, 2022, Akasa Air operated its first flight between Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Like many airlines, it started out humbly, with a couple of Boeing 737 MAX planes and a few routes on its network. But the weeks that followed made it clear that the airline was planning big and fast.
By December, Akasa was already in 10 cities across India and steadily increasing its fleet size. By March 2023, when it announced Kolkata as one of its destinations, Akasa’s network included all tier 1 cities in India, namely: Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, Ahmedabad, and Pune.
Of course, staying true to its initial commitment, the budget carrier also expanded its reach in tier 2 and 3 destinations over the months, including Lucknow, Varanasi, Guwahati, Kochi, Bagdogra, and Agartala, among others. Today it operates over 900 weekly flights with a published network of 35 unique routes across 16 destinations. According to Cirium, Akasa operated 4,000 flights in July, and in its first year of operations, it has already flown more than 4.3 million passengers.
Photo: Akasa Air/Twitter
Akasa initially planned to include one new Boeing 737 MAX every two weeks. There were some hiccups along the way, such as supply chain issues forcing the airline to accept seats without USB ports and planes in different configurations. But instead of waiting for things to be perfect, Akasa accepted the aircraft and continued expanding.
It recently welcomed its 20th aircraft even before it turned one, a remarkable feat that now allows it to apply for international routes. Indeed, if all goes according to plan, Akasa could well be operating flights to the Middle East or Southeast Asia by year-end.
From the get-go, Akasa often deviated from traditional aviation norms in India. It went with the 737 MAX instead of Indian carriers’ darling Airbus A320 (of course, the A320’s slot unavailability and Boeing’s discounts tipped the scales).
Soon after launching, Akasa allowed pets onboard (not unheard of in India but not extremely popular with airlines, either). It has also been innovative with inflight meals, curating seasonal and festival-related menus to keep things exciting.
Photo: Akasa Air
Aloke Bajpai, Founder and CEO of online travel portal ixigo, told businessline that customers have been quite happy with Akasa, giving consistent positive reviews, adding,
“We are very bullish with their growth. Even on airfares, they are competing very hard.”
As impressive as Akasa has been in terms of fleet and network enhancement, it has been just as good with its monthly figures. In the first six months of 2023, it has been one of the most punctual airlines in India.
Its domestic market share growth has been just as impressive. In June, Akasa commanded an almost 5% share of the country’s aviation market, ahead of even SpiceJet. Of course, a lack of competition and Go First’s grounding helped solidify its position even further. Akasa capitalized on slot availability and doubled down on busy sectors such as Delhi-Mumbai, although it had to cut back on some frequencies in South India.
Photo: Akasa Air
Akasa recently announced a loss of over $73 million, but given that it was its first year operating in a sector known to devour money relentlessly, the losses were expected and considered well within control by many industry experts.
The airline has plenty to look forward to: It’ll add more airplanes over the next few years, expand to more destinations both within India and abroad, and raise more funds for future aircraft orders. And while Akasa seems to have passed the litmus test in its first year, the hope is that it keeps progressing with the same momentum.
Have you traveled Akasa Air? What do you think about the airline? Please let us know in the comment section below.
With inputs from businessline