AirAsia group chief Tony Fernandes has said it was hard to do business in India due to protectionist policies and “vested interests”, but his joint venture carrier AirAsia India was here for a long haul. Defending the slow-paced growth of AirAsia India, he said the aviation sector here was a “double marathon” and not a “sprint”.
“I am not going to storm in like a bull in China shop like Vijay Mallya did, and get caught.
Now we have a (civil aviation) policy and the policy is very clear on what we have to do. So
talk to us in a few years time,” he said.
Observing that the BJP-led government has “at least delivered 80 per cent of what it talked about” in the draft aviation policy, the AirAsia chief said “it is hard (to do business) in India (as) there are so many vested interest who were trying to keep some of the incumbents happy.”
“So at least they changed it (norm for international flying by domestic carriers) and we are clear what we need to do. And I would not be dead by the time 5 years come along with 20 aircraft we had before,” the AirAsia (Berhad) Group Chief Executive Officer said.
Fernandes, who is also among the pioneers of the low-cost airline model in Asia, minced no words in criticising the Indian Government for “protectionism in the skies” while at the same time heaping praise on the new civil aviation policy, particularly the doing away of the 5/20 norm.
“Don’t protect airlines. Get more air traffic rights, get more tourism into India and create more jobs. I think the Modi Government has to be brave in going all the way and getting rid of vested interests and protectionism,” he said.
To questions on AirAsia India’s slow progress as compared to its peer group, he said earlier there was no clarity on what the policy was going to be. “This is not a sprint this a marathon. India is a double marathon. So I think we have been smart, we are cautious, we built it slowly,” Fernandes said.