India’s government has given Akasa Air (QP, Mumbai International), the start-up ultra-low-cost carrier backed by billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, the vital No Objection Certificate (NOC) it needed to proceed, local media reported on October 11.

The Ministry of Civil Aviation issued the document, which allows the nascent airline to apply to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation for an Air Operator’s Permit (AOP) ahead of plans to commence flight operations next summer.

Jhunjhunwala and his wife Rekha met Prime Minister Narendra Modi in Delhi on October 5, an evening encounter that Modi posted with a photo on Twitter with the words: “Delighted to meet the one and only Rakesh Jhunjhunwala... lively, insightful, and very bullish on India.”

SNV Aviation Pvt Ltd, the company behind the Akasa Air brand name, has reportedly been in talks with Boeing to acquire around one hundred B737 MAX aircraft. It also boasts Vinay Dube, Aditya Ghosh, and other seasoned Indian aviation veterans among its management team.

In August, the civil aviation authority allowed the MAX to fly again in India. Although details about Akasa Air, including decisions on aircraft orders, have not formally been disclosed, the company appears to be heading towards one of the biggest deals of the year to acquire purchased or leased B737s.

However, Christian Scherer, chief commercial officer at Airbus, told the Press Trust of India, as reported by the newspapers Business Line and Business Standard: "We are not in the business of countering offers, but we are having conversations with Akasa. Of course, we are.” Asked what stage the talks were at, he replied: “That is really private. What I can tell you is that when you start an airline in India, what’s the benchmark you’re looking at. It’s pretty obvious, isn’t it? It’s IndiGo Airlines.”

The ch-aviation fleets module shows that IndiGo currently operates seventy-nine A320-200s, 130 A320-200Ns with another 202 on order, and forty-four A321-200NXs with another 354 on order. It also operates thirty-three ATR72-600s with twenty on order.

Jhunjhunwala told local media in late July that Akasa Air would place orders for up to 70 aircraft.

Boeing did not immediately respond to ch-aviation’s request for comment and Airbus declined to comment.

Akasa Air plans to offer flights across India starting in the summer of 2022, it said in a statement issued to local media on October 11, with the aim of being “the nation’s most dependable, affordable, and greenest airline.” It pledged a “warm, efficient, reliable, and affordable travel experience.”

Dube commented in the statement: “We will continue to work with the regulatory authorities on all additional compliances required to successfully launch Akasa Air. Having a robust air transportation system is critical for our nation’s progress. Akasa Air will serve all Indians regardless of their socio-economic or cultural backgrounds, with warmth, inclusiveness, and respect.”