THE government is likely to do away with the mandatory norm that requires Indian carriers to operate in the domestic market for at least five years before they fly abroad. The civil aviation ministry has veered round to the view that each airline should be evaluated on its own merits instead of a blanket eligibility criteria based on domestic flying experience.
“We are willing to do away with existing norm and allow airlines to fly on international routes on a case-to-case basis. In no part of the world airlines are allowed to operate internationally on the basis of their five or three-years of experience in the domestic market,” civil aviation minister Praful Patel told ET.
The domestic airline industry is divided on this issue. While older private airlines like Jet Airways favours continuing with the existing rule, new entrants like Kingfisher, SpiceJet and Air Deccan want relaxation in the norms so as to carve out a share of the international traffic.
“We want to take Indian carriers’ inbound and outbound market share in the total international traffic to 50% which can only be achieved by encouraging our airlines to fly abroad,” Mr Patel said. “Allowing airlines to operate in as many as destinations bring competition, resulting in competitive fare and better on-board facilities to the travellers. Not only that a liberal approach on the issue would provide carriers access to new market,” he said.
The new thinking of doing away with the minimum experience criteria altogether comes at a time when a group of ministers headed by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee is deliberating on the national civil aviation policy. The policy includes among other things norms for domestic airline companies to fly abroad. The next meeting of the GoM is slated in the first week of September.
The new move may pave the way for carriers such as Kingfisher and Air Deccan to operate internationally. Currently, an airline seeking to start overseas flights needs to have an uninterrupted flying experience of five years in the domestic skies and have a minimum fleet size of 20 aircraft.
Only three airlines — Air India, Indian Airlines (Indian) and Jet Airways — presently meet the minimum eligibility criteria to operate international flight and are having scheduled services for global destinations.