PANAJI: Goan boy Tony Fernandes, founder of AirAsia, made a flying visit to Goa on Thursday accompanied by Ratan Tata, former chairman of the Tata Group, and other members of his team.
The Tatas have a 30 per cent stake in AirAsia (India), and the presence of Tata along with key officials of the airline like Subramanian Ramadorai, non-executive chairman and Mittu Chandiliya, CEO, lent serious weight to the visit.
Fernandes, whose family origins are in Goa, said that he is keen to make base in the state and also to set up corporate office. His visit along with Tata, he said, is because the airline is very serious of operating out of Goa in future and wants to give out the message of “meaning business.” Cheaper airline aviation fuel (ATF) and lower airport tax is what they are seeking from the government, he emphasised.
The new Dabolim terminal, said Fernandes, “looked ok” although he has not seen much of it. Low-cost airlines such as his, he said, do not need elaborate infrastructure but basic support from the authorities. ‘Flying is not for the rich’ is the motto of his airline, said the founder of the world’s most successful low-cost carrier. Most passengers in AirAsia’s newly-introduced Bangalore-Goa sector are those who have never flown before, he added.
The Bangalore-Goa route is going full and the rush is because of the cheap tickets, said Fernandes. The benefit to Goa from the airline’s presence, he pointed out, would be increased passengers once foreign airlines are allowed to operate international flights. Plans are of starting Kuala Lumpur-Goa flights and also other connecting flights to the state.
Deputy Chief Minister Francis D’Souza along with industrialist Atul Pai Kane and Kirit Maganlal, chairman, CII-Goa, was at the airport to meet the AirAsia entourage. Later, the Industries Minister Mahadev Naik also came in to meet up with visitors.
Tata spoke little but added that the airline would be happy to operate out of Goa. Although Tata has visited the state earlier, for Fernandes this is his first visit. The aviation hi-flier, whose full name is Anthony Francis Fernandes, informed that although his family is from Goa he has no idea where they resided. Goa, he said, is a place for which he has deep affection and it was his father’s wish that he visit the state.
Later speaking to ‘The Navhind Times’, Chandiliya said that low-cost airlines have several cities as their hub and need multiple terminals to park planes. Although the airline is operating out of Chennai at present, it has not yet decided where the corporate office will be.
AirAsia India commenced domestic operations on June 11 with the first flight landing in Goa. Currently, it also operates other sectors, all of which are from Bangalore.