Malaysia’s AirAsia Group chief Tony Fernandes has been given the status of Overseas Citizen of India (OIC) by the Indian government, amid concerns in certain quarters over control at budget carrier AirAsia India.
Fernandes, whose father was of Goa origin, announced this at a time when AirAsia India is celebrating its second anniversary.
AirAsia India is a joint venture between AirAsia and Tatas, each holding 49 per cent stake. The remaining shares are with the carrier’s two directors — S Ramadorai and R Venkataramanan.
“I am also delighted to share that I have been granted the OIC status. India has always been close to my heart as my father was from this country and Goa is my ancestral homeland,” Fernandes said in a statement Monday.
He also posted a picture of his OIC passport on his Twitter handle.
“My father’s posting brought him to Malaysia, but he never stopped talking about Goa and the rest is history. I landed in Goa for the first time during the inaugural flight of AirAsia India from Bengaluru to Goa and I take immense pride in that,” he noted.
Fernandes, group CEO of AirAsia Berhard, getting OIC status assumes significance as there have been concerns about control and ownership of AirAsia India.
The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), the grouping of of four established domestic carriers–Jet Airways, IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir–had raised concerns about control and ownership at AirAsia India.
Allegations that AirAsia India was indirectly controlled by the Malaysian entity gained momentum after erstwhile stakeholder Arun Bhatia had expressed unhappiness over the state of affairs at the budget carrier last December.
About AirAsia India completing two years, Fernandes said it has been a challenging journey for the team in India.
Noting that AirAsia’s commitment to India has only kept growing stronger, he said it has a long term goal of linking India to ASEAN and beyond.
As part of its second anniversary celebrations, AirAsia has come out with fares starting from Rs 899 across its network of 10 domestic and more than 120 international routes served by AirAsia and AirAsia X Groups.
“The promotional seats are available for booking from 13 to June 19, 2016 for the travel period January 4 to August 21, 2017,” the statement said.