The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Airlines seek govt prop

New Delhi, March 24: State-run airlines want the government to part-pay the expenses for bringing back Indians fleeing Kuwait as insurance companies have started demanding high risk premia for flights to the country.

Global insurance firms have asked the three airlines still flying out of Kuwait — Indian Airlines, Air-India and Kuwait Airways — to cough up higher premia on aircraft being flown to the city as these are at risk of being hit by missiles. A top Air-India executive said: “Talks are on, they want us to raise the cover charge to Rs 35 lakh plus per flight ... this is naturally uneconomical. We would like the government to subsidise the cost.”

Only good thing about the premia demand is that it is with prospective effect and not retrospective effect.

“We can’t ask passengers to pay more as this would be extremely unfair and unpopular. The other option is the government paying up. We will see tomorrow what can be done on this count,” the official said. The other alternative to paying high premia is to take passengers by road to UAE or Bahrain and then putting them on to connecting flights for India.

The airline earns a total revenue of just about Rs 2 crore on a full Airbus flight and a war premia, which eats up nearly a quarter of this, makes little economic sense, officials said. The two airlines operated a total of 26 flights last week out of Kuwait.

Meanwhile, in London, the board of airlines’ representatives were expected to plead with global insurance giants, which re-insure aircraft, that since the Gulf flights are really distress flights and the war zone had shifted to the centre of Iraq, rates should be pegged lower. However, insurance firms are unlikely to agree as stray missiles have hit Kuwait in the recent past and missile hits have been reported out of Iran and Turkey too.

Kuwait Airways itself has decided to operate out of Sharjah and Dubai in case the Kuwait City airport is closed down.

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