India could be huge attractor of MRO business: AirAsia chief
New Delhi: Excited over "huge opportunities" for maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) business in India, AirAsia Chief Tony Fernandes Tuesday said he was in talks with Airbus for setting up regional MRO centres in the country.
Noting that Indian carriers were sending their aircraft abroad to get them repaired, he said India was losing foreign exchange as taxes on spares and related items were "discouraging" airlines to get their planes fixed here.
Observing that MRO business was important as it would help lowering the costs for the airlines, he said, "I want to get fares down in India. So I am looking at all the components of costs so that the common man can travel.
"We think India could be a huge attractor of MRO business. I have been talking to Airbus and others (manufacturers) for setting up regional centres in India.
"But tax system here actually discourages, in terms of MRO, there is taxes on spares, withholding tax issues. So, airline operators don't fix their planes in India. The tax system was actually not helping as foreign exchange were being taken out of India," the AirAsia chief said.
Fernandes said the wonderful MRO facility at Cochin was hugely underutilised, as it was lying empty and the skilled engineers were underutilised.
"There is need for skill development, connectivity, and help low cost airlines to bring to commerce in terms of small businesses. We are looking at huge opportunity here for Indian companies," he said, adding he was surprised with the "positive and supportive" government.
Fernandes held separate meetings with Finance Minister P Chidambaram, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh and Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma during the day.
Speaking about his plans, he said that initial investment would be of USD 30 million in the airline and scale up operations very rapidly because "we don't want to be slow".
"We want to be aggressive in putting planes in India and that was one of the things we discussed with the minister. We want to have a three-year plane growth so that we don't have to come back again asking for permission for approval for planes," he said.