Ajit Singh in New Delhi on Friday. Picture by Ramakant Kushwaha
New Delhi, Sept. 21: The civil aviation ministry plans to move the cabinet shortly with a proposal to relax the criteria for Indian carriers to fly overseas. The move is likely to benefit Wadia-run GoAir and Vijay Mallya’s beleaguered Kingfisher Airlines.
Current rules stipulate five years’ experience and a fleet of 20 aircraft to operate overseas.
Kingfisher’s fleet has whittled down to just 11 planes and it has consequently stopped flying abroad. GoAir, too, does not have enough aircraft.
India is the only country that has set up such rules; elsewhere, an entrepreneur can set up an airline solely for international operations. Two new low-cost success stories out of Asia in the last decade — Air Asia by Tony Fernandez, an Indian-origin Malaysian, and Air Arabia from the ruler of Sharjah — could not even have come up if they were Indian startups.
Officials said that Kingfisher Airlines, which had stopped international operations after its fleet size came down to just 11 from 67 aircraft, would be the immediate beneficiary.
If civil aviation minister Ajit Singh’s plan works, Kingfisher can restart its international flights at a time the global market is looking up, instead of waiting for years to see its fleet grow.
Go Airlines (India) Limited will be the other beneficiary as it currently has 13 planes though it has ordered 72 Airbus A320s, which it will get from next year.
“This reform will help the low-cost carrier sector in India. Present regulations are unnecessary and such a reform would be a step in the right direction. No other country in the world has such rules. This would bring immediate relief to GoAir,” said Kapil Kaul, CEO of South Asia, Capa (Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation)
He added that airlines solely flying abroad would come up in the course of time.
Meanwhile, Singh said that connectivity to Tier II and other non-metro cities which were “growing destinations” was a problem as airlines were unwilling to fly to these places.
“The government will nudge them to fly to these cities and also have code-sharing agreement with the regional carriers,” he said.
Airlines’ strategy to have just a single type of aircraft has hit connectivity to the smaller towns as these planes are unable to operate on the shorter runways.