| Big dreams
New Delhi, Sept. 11: Naresh Goyal’s Jet Airways is getting ready to fly to the Gulf from 2008. While a group of ministers is still deliberating on private operations to the region, Jet has applied for flights to six Gulf destinations from next year.
Jet is confident of getting a go-ahead from the government. It is banking on a earlier cabinet resolution that gave monopoly to the national carriers over these lucrative routes till the end of this year.
Civil aviation ministry officials said, “We are currently processing the application. We can only give permission to private carriers to fly on routes that are not used by the state-run airlines but for which we have bilateral rights.”
Airlines fly chock-a-block on Gulf routes because of the huge expat community that shuttles to and fro between India and the region.
The routes were reserved for Air India and Indian Airlines as compensation for carrying out operations in the national interest such as evacuating Indians from war zones and ferrying relief materials during natural calamities.
Opportunities for private airlines have increased following successful negotiations with several Gulf countries over more flights.
For some countries, the quota of flights has gone up by as much as 60 per cent.
Jet has applied to fly to Oman, Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Qatar, Kuwait and Bahrain.
The civil aviation policy, being discussed by the group of ministers, is expected to look at a host of issues, including allowing airlines with less than 5 years’ experience to fly abroad, a move benefiting Jet’s rival Kingfisher Airlines. If Jet’s application is cleared by the civil aviation ministry, it will pre-empt any bid by Kingfisher to take a bite of the Gulf routes.
Besides Jet, the joint Air India-Indian combine is certain to apply for more flights to the region. Air India had recently merged with Indian to form the National Aviation Company of India Ltd. The entity will operate under the Air India name.
The combined turnover of the two airlines in 2006 was about Rs 14,700 crore. The profit was Rs 58 crore, the lion’s share of which came from Indian.
There is, however, the possibility of the group of minister not approving the Jet proposal.
A section of the bureaucracy favours reserving the Gulf routes for the PSU combine. If they lobby successfully for the move, the ministers would take more time to finalise the policy for private operations to the region.
At one time, Gulf Air and Kuwait Airways had minority stakes in Jet. However, later when the government decided that foreign airlines would not be allowed to own equity in an Indian entity, these two airlines sold off their stake.