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Indian carriers team up to impede AirAsia India's operations
Shekhar Niyogi, Kolkata, April 14, 2014

INDIA'S existing airlines have united as the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) in a bid to block AirAsia India from receiving the operating licence, soon to be released by the Directorate of Civil Aviation.

FIA is asserting its stand that the liberalisation of foreign direct investment norms to allow carriers to have equity participation of 49 per cent for overseas partners, is applicable only to existing airlines and not to new carriers like AirAsia India and Tata SIA Airlines.

The imminent revocation of the rule stipulating that a qualifying carrier must have been in operation for five years and must own 20 airplanes, is also a bone of contention.

However, Ashok Lavasa, secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, said: “The ministry is acting on well laid-down policies. The policies are clear and it cannot act based on individual interpretations.”

Meanwhile, AirAsia India already has its management team in place and has started acquiring the first of 10 aircraft to commence operations this October.

Tony Fernandes, CEO, AirAsia Group, said: "I don't think there is any low-cost carrier in India. The average fares charged by IndiGo and SpiceJet are very high. Our plan is (to launch) many virgin routes. Our fares will be aggressive and will stimulate the market.''

On national carrier Air India suffering mammoth losses with the government pumping in millions of dollars in aid, Gaurav Jain, owner, Jaipur-based Holidays Unlimited, opined: “Tax payers’ money has been poured into Air India whose inefficiency has bled the airline and continues to do so.

“We have to cut our losses and allow the demise of a dying enterprise. We need new airlines to offer better services at economical prices.”

Rajendra Churiwala, director-east, IATA Agents Association of India, said: “The practice of most airlines has been undesirable to ticketing agents. Opening up Indian skies will benefit passengers and the travel trade.”

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