Indian private airlines gear up to connect ASEAN nations

Wednesday, 28 July 2004, 07:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: India's private airlines are bracing up to spread their wings to profitable ASEAN destinations like Singapore, Bangkok and Kula Lumpur with the government approval on their proposals likely to come soon.

Airlines representatives and analysts say the move to allow private airlines -- Jet Airways and Air Sahara -- to fly to the ASEAN region would come as a major boost to the country's civil aviation sector.

It will also enhance India's tourism and bilateral trade with these nations and result in reduced airfares for travellers, they say.

"When the state-run airlines are already operating in the India-ASEAN route, private airlines should also be allowed to go to these destinations," said Subhash Goyal, president of the Indian Association of Tour Operators (IATO).

"The traffic between India and the ASEAN countries is quite big and it has been growing at a rapid pace in the last few years. The route is definitely going to be profitable for private airlines," Goyal told IANS.

"And once the private operators enter into the sector, rising competition will force all the players to slash their fares to woo customers. It happens in all parts of the world."

The Prime Minister's Office has approved the proposal to allow Jet Airways and Air Sahara to start operations to ASEAN destinations like Singapore, Bangkok and Kula Lumpur.

The proposal, which was mooted by the previous government, will now go to the civil aviation ministry that will come out with detailed guidelines for private operators.

At present, state-run Air-India and Indian Airlines fly to Singapore.

Both Jet Airways and Air Sahara had expressed their readiness to fly to the ASEAN destinations.

Singapore has already offered Jet Airways and Air Sahara landing rights in the country during the talks the Singapore Prime Minister Goh Chok Tong had with the Indian leadership earlier this month.

"It is definitely a very positive decision for us. It has been under consideration for quite some time now," said A.K. Shivanandan, general manager (public relations) of Jet Airways.

"Although we haven't received any official notification on this from the government, we will certainly like to start operations to these destinations at the earliest," he added.

According to Shivanandan, the airline would have to acquire "long-range aircrafts" for operating in the India-ASEAN route. "All these issues are under consideration at this moment."

Jet Airways currently operates over 255 flights daily to 43 destinations, including daily flights to two international destinations, Colombo in Sri Lanka and Kathmandu in Nepal.

An official of Air Sahara said that the airline, an arm of private sector diversified conglomerate Sahara group, had already submitted an expression of interest to the government for flying to Singapore and Bangkok.

"Our aim is to expand our services to all profitable overseas destinations as the government gradually liberalises the aviation norms for private airlines operating in the country," said the official.

In the overseas route, Air Sahara currently provides services to Colombo and plans to launch its Nepal operations in the first week of September.

Source: IANS
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