India's newest budget carrier Akasa begins commercial operations

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MUMBAI (Reuters) - India's newest budget carrier Akasa Air, which is backed by billionaire Rakesh Jhunjhunwala, began commercial operations on Sunday with a maiden flight from the financial capital of Mumbai to the city of Ahmedabad.

Starting from Sunday, Akasa Air will operate weekly flights from Mumbai to Ahmedabad, a commercial hub in the neighbouring state of Gujarat, the company said in a statement.

"We want to serve our country by creating strong transportation links which are the underpinning of any economic growth engine" Vinay Dube, founder and CEO of the airline said in the statement.

Jhunjhunwala, known as "India's Warren Buffett", has teamed up with ex-Jet Airways CEO Dube and former IndiGo head Aditya Ghosh to set up Akasa.

Akasa, which has a total of 72 Boeing planes on order, will compete directly with other budget carriers like IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoFirst.

Domestic air travel in India has made a sharp recovery this year with airlines flying over 57 million passengers in the first half, up 238% from last year, government data showed.

(Reporting by Shilpa Jamkhandikar in Mumbai and Aditi Shah in New Delhi; Editing by Hugh Lawson)