Aviation veteran and Air India Express CEO Aloke Singh, who took over as the head of AIX Connect on Sunday, said in his first message to erstwhile AirAsia India employees after taking charge.
The Tata Group is soon going to place a mega order of 150-200 Boeing 737 MAXs for the low cost arm of Air India to create a budget carrier of scale. AIX Connect will be merged into AI Express this year and Singh has been named the CEO of both LCCs.
“…with full shareholding (of AAIPL) passing to Air India and post the integration with Air India Express, the brand will sunset in India. It is sad to see (AAIPL) go, but there is an opportunity to create a robust new organisation. We can leverage the strengths of both (the LCCs), as well as those of the parent company in building upon a solid foundation,” Singh said in a communication to employees.
“AI Express provides a platform for an international footprint, ready to scale up to a formidable pan-Asia network. A meaningful domestic presence with a new fleet is on the anvil. Cross-feeds between the international long-haul, international short-haul, and domestic networks will give us an unmatched competitive advantage,” Singh said, adding, “The path ahead will be challenging. But we have a monumental opportunity to build something we can be proud of. And what we create will be game-changing for the industry as well.”
Giving an update of the integration, Singh said the same has sped up with “over 150 colleagues from both organisations already working together on dozens of essential workstreams underpinning the integration exercise. My primary responsibility will be to work with the integration teams, and indeed everyone across the two organisations, to bring these initiatives to fruition.”
On December 22, 2022, Air India CEO-MD Campbell Wilson had told employees: “Following the recent acquisition and subsidiarisation of AAIPL, and its ongoing integration with AI Express, it has been decided to consolidate the LCC business under a single CEO. (While merger process is on) a single CEO will provide the clarity and singular accountability necessary to navigate that process. I’m pleased to convey that Aloke Singh, the incumbent CEO of Air India Express, will be the sole CEO of the Air India LCC airlines effective 1 January 2023.”
The Tatas recently renamed AAIPL as AIX Connect, ahead of its impending merger with AI Express. The salt-to-satellite conglomerate is consolidating its four airlines. By next March it will merge full service carrier (FSC) Vistara into AI. And this year, the LCC integration will be completed. Eventually there will be one airline — AI — with a low cost arm AI Express.
Unlike its state-owned days when the two airlines had separate websites, this time there will be a common website with schedules integrated to provide the required feed for AI medium/long/ultra long hauls originating from hubs like Delhi and Mumbai. That means people can enjoy seamless travel on one ticket using flights of both AI and AI Express depending on what suits their requirement best in terms of what time they want to fly with minimum connecting times.
This “scissor” model is essential to fill wide bodies, something that Emirates has been doing for years and more recently Qatar Airways. They get a large number of flights from India at their Dubai and Doha hubs, respectively, in the early hours of the day and then feed from these flights like a “scissor” take connecting flights to rest of the world. Ditto on the way back to India. IndiGo also has code share with Qatar Airways and provides feed from India to the Doha hub in a similar fashion.