Despite market speculations over its future, AirAsia India foresees a sustained passenger demand to power its growth in the coming quarter.
Accordingly, the pandemic-battered airline is in fact going ahead with the planned induction of 5 fully-owned aircraft which will bring down the average fleet age to around three years.
In terms of passenger growth, the company conceded that despite directional imbalance in traffic, the trend is getting more evened out with the emergence of metro-to-metro demand.
Not responding to speculation but affirming passengers' belief in the brand, Sunil Bhaskaran, CEO and MD, AirAsia India, told IANS: "So far as the air traffic is concerned, it has been highly directional between metro and non-metro cities, though we are now beginning to see the metro-metro traffic coming back."
"Passenger demographics have changed significantly with the proportion of under 29- year-olds increasing to nearly half of the total passengers and those over 40 reduced to less than half of passengers."
"As young India starts resuming work and planning holidays this festive season, we expect this number to further increase."
However, Bhaskaran pointed out that despite encouraging traffic growth which has been witnessed over the last few weeks, "the harsh reality is that the traffic is still only 35 per cent of the pre-Covid levels on a year-on-year basis and we have a long way to go".
"We anticipate the road to recovery to be gradual and steady; we are cautiously optimistic about the festive season that is coming up," he said.
"We are already operating more than 100 daily flights now, which is between 45-50 per cent of our pre-Covid capacity now, and expect a steady rise as we near the festive period."
He elaborated that although uncertainty continues to impact the demand, there is a sizable domestic market dependent on leisure travel that will hopefully open up later this year.
Besides, Bhaskaran said that pent-up demand is now converting into a more sustained trend.
"The recent surge in traffic over the long October 2 weekend was an encouraging sign for demand for domestic holidays," he said.
"We are hopeful of continued growth in demand as we enter the festive season."
Furthermore, Bhaskaran said that the company will be taking the delivery of five fully-owned aircraft.
"We had nearly doubled our operations between 2018 and 2020 and chalked out plans to continue growing at more than 30 per cent year-on-year before the pandemic," he said.
"Before the onset of pandemic, we had already firmed up orders to take delivery of 5 Airbus A320 Neo aircraft with CFM engines and we would be honouring the same in the next few months."
Additionally, he said that in the last couple of weeks, the airline has opened new routes such as Mumbai-Ranchi, Mumbai-Bhubaneswar, Mumbai-Guwahati in veiw of the demand for direct connections in these markets.
Lately, the company's operations have come under the scanner due to speculations on the financial status of one of its prime stakeholders -- AirAsia Berhad.
The airline is a JV between Tata Sons and AirAsia Berhad.
(Rohit Vaid can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)