Rakesh Jhunjhunwala's low-cost airline to revive Boeing in India
Billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala's plan to launch an ultra-low-cost airline could give planemaker Boeing a chance to regain lost ground in India after the fall of one of its biggest customers, Jet Airways, two years ago, industry executives say.
Mr Jhunjhunwala, known as India's Warren Buffett for his successful stock investments, plans to team up with former CEOs of IndiGo, the country's biggest carrier, and Jet Airways to tap into demand for domestic air travel.
While plans to launch Akasa Air come at a time when India's aviation industry is reeling from the impact of the pandemic, with airlines losing billions of dollars, the sector's long-term prospect makes it a hot market for planemakers Boeing and Airbus.
"There will be a big fight between Airbus and Boeing," said Nitin Sarin, managing partner at law firm Sarin & Co, which advises lessors and airlines.
"For Boeing this is a great opportunity to step in and up their game, considering they don't have any other major operator for their 737 aircraft in India apart from SpiceJet," Sarin said, referring to Boeing's narrowbody aircraft.
Boeing did not comment on Akasa's plans, but in a statement to Reuters said it always sought opportunities and talks with current and potential customers about how it can best support their fleet and operational needs.
Details of the venture, including any decision on plane orders, have not been formally disclosed, but Mr Jhunjhunwala told Bloomberg he plans to have a 40 per cent stake in Akasa, which will have 70 aircraft of up to 180 seats within four years.
Mr Jhunjhunwala, valued at $4.6 billion by Forbes, did not respond to an interview request.
Indian skies are dominated by low-cost carriers (LCCs) including IndiGo, SpiceJet, GoFirst and AirAsia India, with the majority of them operating a fleet of Airbus' narrowbody planes.