India's private airlines to fly abroad
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India's private airlines to fly abroad

Monday, 29 November 2004, 08:00 Hrs
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NEW DELHI: Notwithstanding strong objections from Left parties, the Indian government will soon allow private airlines to fly to foreign destinations, a top official indicated Monday.

The decision could come during next month's parliament session, Civil Aviation Secretary Ajay Prasad said.

While the government's nod was still awaited, Prasad said his ministry favoured allowing state-run domestic carrier Indian Airlines as well as private carriers to fly abroad and supplement flag carrier Air-India's operations.

In the meantime, consultation was on to evolve a consensus among the ministries concerned, including external affairs, commerce and tourism, he told reporters on the sidelines of a meeting of the Cooperative Development of Operational Safety and Continuing Airworthiness - South Asia, a wing of the International Civil Aviation Organisation.

"As soon as we get their comments, we will be able to clear the proposal," Prasad added.

He did not rule out a decision during the parliament session that begins Wednesday.

"I don't thing it is going to take too long," he felt.

The Left parties, which back the Congress-led government from outside, have demanded that the government bar private domestic airlines from flying to international destinations till the fleets of the national carriers were augmented to provide them a level playing field.

Responding to the demand, the civil aviation secretary said there was no need to wait as both Indian Airlines and Air-India were already in the process of augmenting their fleet, either by leasing or buying aircraft.

"We are expediting their acquisition plans," Prasad said. "We want to provide new aircraft to both airlines. Delivery takes time, so leasing is also on. We will not need to wait for acquisition of new aircraft."

For Indian Airlines, which is finalising plans to acquire 43 aircraft in its first major fleet expansion in 15 years, the process of placing orders could be completed within this financial year (ending March 31), he said.

The funding pattern would be mostly through external commercial borrowings.

Two private domestic carriers - Jet Airways and Air Sahara - have been allowed to fly to destinations in member countries of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC), including Nepal and Sri Lanka.

Prasad said the ministry of civil aviation felt that private carriers should be allowed to fly everywhere, to make up for the demand that Air-India was unable to meet.

Source: IANS
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