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AirAsia has stopped funding its Indian affiliate due to global travel slump

AirAsia said Monday that its Japanese arm would cease flying immediately as Covid-19 continues to impact hit the airline industry

An Air Asia A320-200 plane pictured taking off from Kuala Lumpur International Airport 2 in Sepang, Malaysia. Photograph: AP Photo/Joshua Paul

AirAsia Group has stopped funding its Indian affiliate as the global travel slump leaves the Malaysian group struggling to support a sprawling empire of no-frills airlines, people familiar with the matter said.

AirAsia India’s future may now depend on Indian conglomerate Tata Group, its majority shareholder, which has provided emergency funding but has yet to commit to a full rescue, according to the people, who asked not to be named discussing a confidential matter.

The airline isn’t at any immediate risk of folding, the people said. India’s aviation minister said over the weekend that AirAsia was shutting up shop in the south Asian nation, though his office later suggested the comment was taken out of context.

AirAsia India declined to comment, as did a representative for Tata Group. AirAsa Group didn’t respond to requests for comment after usual office hours.

AirAsia said earlier Monday that its Japanese arm will cease flying immediately as the coronavirus outbreak continues to roil the airline industry. Once the poster child of the region’s revolution in low-cost travel, the group is seeking as much as 2.5 billion ringgit (€510 million) to steer its way through the crisis.

Long-haul arm AirAsia X has, meanwhile, said it needs to reach deals with major creditors to restructure debt amid “severe liquidity constraints” that threaten its ability to resume services and continue as a going concern.

AirAsia India has survived on 3 billion rupees (€34.8 million) in funding from Tata, which owns a 51 per cent stake, with another round of financing expected soon, one of the people said.

Tata is weighing its options and how much it would cost to buy out AirAsia and save the carrier, another person said. The industrial group also has a 51 per cent holding in the Vistara full-service airline venture with Singapore Airlines.

AirAsia India predicted it would break even in four months when it began flying in 2014. In reality, it has yet to make money in a market where high fuel taxes and cut-throat fares can make even dominant players unprofitable. The carrier has a market share of 6.8 per cent and employs more than 3,000 people. - Bloomberg

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