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No-frills AirAsia to fly to India from Dec. 1

No-frills AirAsia to fly to India from Dec. 1

Malaysia's budget carrier AirAsia will fly to the southern Indian city of Tiruchirapally from Dec. 1, its first destination in India that marks a toehold into a market that has long been out of its reach, its chief said Monday.
AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes said tickets will go on sale at midnight Wednesday with the first flight taking off from Kuala Lumpur's low-cost terminal at 7.40 a.m. on Dec. 1.
"It is fantastic.We finally got there. It is the final frontier for us. This was the last flag we had to plant," Fernandes told The Associated Press.
He said AirAsia will fly daily to Tiruchirapally, also known as Trichy, and there is a possibility of adding a second flight because of the "tremendous" response to the plan.
"This is an exciting period for us and I'm looking at a high load factor of at least 90 percent for our first flight," he said.
When AirAsia started in December 2001, it focused on flying within Malaysia. Soon it expanded operations to Southeast Asia and China, becoming the region's biggest and most successful no-frills budget carrier.
Adding India completed the network, Fernandes said.
He would not comment on reports that it was tough to get permission from the Indian government.
According to industry watchers, the Indian government was pressured by full-fare airlines such as Malaysia Airlines, Indian and Jet Airways to keep out AirAsia.
None of the three airlines fly directly from Kuala Lumpur to Tiruchirapally, but they will be hit when AirAsia starts flying to other Indian cities.
Fernandes said plans are afoot to fly within the next 1 1/2 years to 10 more Indian destinations including Chennai, Madurai and Cochin, which are all in southern India and only about three hours away from Kuala Lumpur.
About 8 percent of Malaysia's 27 million people are ethnic Indians, with most of them tracing their roots in southern India.
AirAsia's long-haul affiliate, AirAsia-X, will seek to fly to more distant cities such as New Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bangalore and Calcutta.
Fernandes said AirAsia would initially invest between 5 million ringgit ($1.4 million) and 7 million ringgit ($2 million) to set up infrastructure in India over the next six months.
He dismissed fears that the global economic slowdown will hit his airline hard.
"You can either cut everything back or you can say there is still a market. That's our approach. We are not going to shrink. We will face the market head on. People are still looking for value and people still want to fly. That's the market we are after," he said.
AirAsia will also benefit from falling crude oil price as it did not hedge its purchases, like some airlines do. To protect against the possibility of oil prices going up some airlines place advance order at the current price.
"We didn't hedge at all. We feel we are in a good spot," he said.