Air Asia India began its low-cost operation with an A320 from Bengaluru to Goa on June 12, 2014. Air Asia founder and CEO Tony Fernandes used Linked-in to say thanks:
Dear AirAsia India AllStars,
Congratulations! We've done it. Hats off to Mittu and each and everyone of you in the AirAsia India family for your unwavering efforts during these past 14 months.
It was blood, sweat and tears but we are now set to create aviation history in India, a land of 1.2 billion people eager to experience the AirAsia promise: "Now Everyone Can Fly".
Let's put aside all previous frustrations and gripes – a lack of basic office space initially, shuttling back and forth in Delhi editing our manuals to comply with every comma and header and the arguments we had with regulators.
Instead, on this momentous occasion, let us choose to remember the 3,000 people who showed up in Chennai for our first cabin crew recruitment, the talented singing and dancing on display at the AirAsia India party and the many selfies (yes, Mittu, I'm looking at you) that we took together during the tough times.
The journey began about four years ago when my partner Datuk Kamaruddin and I first broached the idea of AirAsia India to Mr Ratan Tata. We discussed it casually but given the regulatory environment at that time, we decided to wait awhile before taking it further.
Then, in November 2012, the government liberalised the aviation industry, allowing foreign airlines to invest in India for the first time. I distinctly recall sitting in a government office in Delhi soon after and seeing a poster of Mr Tata at the controls of an aircraft. I immediately sent him a text message: "This is a sign. Let's do it."
He responded positively and we began serious talks. It took less than three months to come up with a partnership between AirAsia, Tata Sons and Telstra Tradeplace. The miracles continued. We succeeded where others had failed or had been blocked many times, receiving FIPB approval in a record 14 days.
The panicked competition did its best to lobby against us. But despite everything they threw at us, here we are today – ready to democratise air travel in India.
Even before our maiden flight yesterday, the support from the people of India for AirAsia has been humbling. In fact, the public clamour for our low fares model is deafening. Clearly, we have raised expectations. Now it's time to deliver.
Through it all, you demonstrated that despite being new to the AirAsia family, you have already embraced our credo – dream the impossible, believe the unbelievable and never take no for an answer. We dreamed of starting an airline in India, we believed we could get the AOP and never took no for an answer from the competition.
We have built a powerful team. As a certified pilot, Mr Tata will fly our aircraft, Sir Richard Branson will serve our guests, our CEO with Bollywood star looks will run the company and I will sit with our Indian guests to get their feedback. Just kidding. Well, except for the part about AirAsia having the best-looking CEO in India.
In all seriousness, I am so proud today. Our dreams have come true. Let us now help the people of India realise their dreams. Together, we will show this amazing country who we are and what we represent – the world's best low cost carrier.
So please take a bow, all of you. You've truly earned it.
-Tony Fernandes is also chairman of football team QPR - now back in England's Premier League.