Akasa Air to launch Guwahati and Agartala to fulfill obligations under Route Dispersal Guidelines

Akasa Air will launch two new stations this October taking the station count in its network to eight from existing six. The airline has opened reservations for flights to Guwahati from Bengaluru, which further extends to Agartala. The new flights will be operational starting October 21, 2022. The airline will also add frequency on the Bengaluru – Chennai – Bengaluru sector where it will have five frequencies, up by two frequencies. This will be the sixth aircraft rotation for the airline, five of which will be based in Bengaluru. 

This website had speculated about its north – east routes in the last post about Akasa Air – Connect the dots! Akasa opens reservation for Chennai – Kochi sector

The launch will take care of the Route Dispersal Guidelines (RDG) which mandate a carrier to fly a certain percentage of ASK’s deployed on top 20 routes in the country (with conditions) to certain remote locations. The National Civil Aviation Policy of 2016 amended the Route Dispersal Guidelines (RDG). The revision of RDG meant that more routes were included in the “Metro” segment or “Category I”but they were linked to traffic. The rules stipulate that any route with a flying distance of more than 700 kms, average seat factor of over 70% and annual traffic of 5 lakh passengers over two full schedules (one year) is the criteria for any route to be Category – I route. None of the category II routes will get converted to I, only Category III routes can be converted to Category I.

While the routes were to be revised every five years, with an advance notice of one year, there has not been any movement at least in the public domain about the changes which were due in 2022. This could probably be because of the pandemic upsetting the calculations. 

While Akasa Air has started Mumbai – Bengaluru and Mumbai – Chennai route and needs subsequent ASKs under RDG, there is precedence on the government allowing a delay in fulfilling the requirements. Vistara was allowed a three month hiatus but the airline has to ensure that the previous requirements are fulfilled in near term. 

CategoryWeekly ASK’s% of Category 1Mandate

The routes and the competition

The Bengaluru – Guwahati route is one where AirAsia India has more frequencies than IndiGo! AirAsia India operates 10 weekly frequencies to IndiGo’s nine while Vistara has a daily flight. IndiGo is the sole operator on the Guwahati – Bengaluru sector and also operates the same route Bengaluru – Guwahati – Agartala. Akasa Air will be selling Bengaluru – Agartala tickets via Guwahati (Same flight number), unlike AirAsia India which had taken a long time to customise to Indian conditions.

Bengaluru – Guwahati is longer than Delhi – Guwahati and just short of the Mumbai – Guwahati distance. This helps with garnering additional ASKs for a Category 2 route. A stronger presence in Bengaluru and availability of slots makes the choice tilt in favour of Bengaluru. The Bengaluru – Agartala sector has seen an average of 100 passengers per day, while Bengaluru – Guwahati stood just below 600 passengers per day each way, pre – COVID. The Agartala – Guwahati route has seen peaks and troughs based on the capacity deployment of by airlines.

On the Bengaluru – Chennai, one which has seen dominance shift from one airline to another, Akasa Air is taking on IndiGo head-on. Years ago, IndiGo had made a silent entry with flights which fed to other destinations and just a morning – evening product. The airline today has seven daily flights. Akasa Air will up the game with five daily. AirAsia India currently serves the route with three daily – a route with which it has had a love-hate relationship! 

Guwahati and Agartala Airports

Guwahati is now a privatised airport with Adani group in charge, while Agartala is run by the state owned Airports Authority of India (AAI). Agartala Airport saw a new terminal being inaugurated along with additional parking bays in place. However, the airport has not been able to attract enough airlines after that. Guwahati is a congested airport with new bays being built and so is the case with terminal building. 

Both these places could see additional connectivity from Akasa Air, as and when the airline decides to launch flights to Kolkata – an airport which is probably the only metro airport with availability of slots.

Network Thoughts

With a larger base in Bengaluru, the Bengaluru – Guwahati flight was a no-brainer. The question to ask always was, where from Guwahati? There weren’t many options either. Social media posts had announced Agartala’s eventual selection a few months ago and it has turned out right.

Are all eyes on IndiGo? Certainly yes! But the airline in pressure could well be AirAsia India as it works on a merger with Air India Express. On routes to Kochi, Chennai and now Guwahati – AirAsia India will be under pressure in an increasing competition and overnight increase in capacity. 

The Bengaluru strategy of Akasa Air is increasingly becoming clearer. Bengaluru is a den of IndiGo with over 60% of all domestic departures. Akasa Air in all probability is trying to take away the competition space, pushing one player at a time. With a significant category 2 and 2A ASKs in place, Akasa Air can add more flights to Chennai from Mumbai or between Delhi and Bengaluru. Which one would it choose? 
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