The Telegraph
Wednesday , January 15 , 2014
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Freedom for local airlines in air

New Delhi, Jan. 14: India could soon ease restrictions that prevent some of its domestic airlines from flying on international routes, potentially benefiting start-ups set up by Tata Singapore Airlines and AirAsia India that aim to begin operations this year.

Under existing rules, local carriers are required to be in operation for at least five years and have 20 aircraft to be eligible to fly international routes.

Civil aviation minister Ajit Singh today said his ministry would seek the Union cabinet’s approval by next month to “scrap this rule”.

The rule, established some 12 years back, is considered as retrograde as new global airlines such as AirAsia and Air Arabia are allowed to fly to India while the same right is denied to many domestic carriers.

If the rule is scrapped, GoAir of the Wadias will be the immediate beneficiary. The airline does not have the required number of aircraft to fly abroad. It has 13 planes and has ordered 72 Airbus A320neo aircraft, the delivery of which is yet to start. All other scheduled carriers have started international services.

According to experts, the norm relaxation is vital for aviation as the five-year wait not only reduced the profits of the Indian carriers but also helped foreign airlines to grab a bigger market share. Only India has such a “discriminatory” rule, they pointed out.

“This reform will help the low-cost carrier sector in India. Present regulations are unnecessary and such a reform will be a step in the right direction. No other country in the world has such rules and this affected our Indian carriers. This will bring immediate relief to GoAir,” said Kapil Kaul, CEO, south Asia, CAPA (Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation).

Singh said the ministry was also looking at a proposal to allow Airbus’s A380 planes to land in local airports. The move will benefit Emirates and Lufthansa who will finally be able to use double-decker planes for India.

“We’ve been looking at it and we’ve talked to the airlines and asked for comments from ground-handling and immigration,” Singh said. “We are waiting for their comments.”

There were concerns over ground handling, immigration and security clearance for 500-600 passengers who would travel at a time in these large airplanes, he said, adding the infrastructure to handle such a large number of passengers at one go has to be in place.