Akasa Air (QP, Mumbai International) is looking to launch its first international operations by the end of 2023 and is evaluating Singapore Changi, the Gulf region, and the Middle East naming Dammam, Doha International, and Muscat as possible destinations, the carrier’s executives have revealed in recent days. Also by the end of this year, it expects to place the “three-digit aircraft order” it has previously hinted at.

The airline launched flight operations in August 2022 and already it operates a fleet of nineteen B737-8s. Under India’s civil aviation laws, an airline can begin international operations with a fleet of 20 or more aircraft. The 20th should arrive in April with another eight in the next financial year, to make 28 by the end of March 2024.

Akasa Air’s chief commercial officer, Praveen Iyer, told the business daily Mint last week that the airline was considering the above destinations as candidates for its upcoming international launch.

“On March 15, we initiated the application process, that’s the first step, and now we will start the real work and decide where we could fly to given the constraints. We are looking to launch international flights by end of the year,” he said. “We see a few markets where we don’t see the capacity they should have. I can see Singapore and a couple of markets in the Middle East and the Gulf as well.”

However, CEO Vinay Dube stressed to the Business Standard newspaper that Akasa’s network planning will centre on metro-to-non-metro connectivity for the next one to two years, saying: “Our focus is going to be on connecting the metros with tier-2 and tier-3 cities. While we do some metro-to-metro flying, we have got a lot of metro-to-non-metro cities like Bengaluru International-Vishakhapatnam, Bangalore-Bhubaneshwar, Bangalore-Guwahati, and Bangalore-Kochi International.”

According to the ch-aviation capacities module, Akasa Air currently operates 20 routes - none of them with fewer than seven weekly frequencies - connecting 13 cities. Its other non-metro cities include Agartala, Lucknow, Goa Dabolim, Bagdogra, and Varanasi. In India, a metro city tends to be an area with a population of one million or more people.

“We will have our first international flight before the end of the year. We’re not constructing a hub. Even today’s Indian airlines don’t make a living off of this. So while we will build connections over time, we are not considering a hub concept. Many non-metros could also offer international flights,” Dube said.

On March 24, the chief executive told the Press Trust of India news agency that even though it will not be until early 2027 that the deliveries of all seventy-two Boeing aircraft Akasa Air has on order is expected to be completed, it will place an additional three-digit order by the end of this year. He declined to give an exact number.

“We are already flying 110 flights a day and will be at 150 flights per day by the end of the summer season. It will be continued growth but not growth for the sake of growth,” he said. “We have no market share targets, not chasing any position in aviation, and we have got a target to make customers happy, a target to make our employees happy. That is what we are doing and we can do that, that is sustainable if we have got a very strong cost structure.”

The airline plans to hire nearly 1,000 employees to take the total workforce to more than 3,000 by the end of March 2024, he added.