New Delhi: The Union civil aviation ministry has allowed Kingfisher Airlines Ltd to merge its operations under the operating licence of low-cost carrier Deccan Aviation Ltd, granted in 2003, allowing it to fly overseas using its own brand as also continue with the Simplifly Deccan brand name until the technology platforms of the two carriers are integrated, a senior ministry official said.
Bangalore-based UB Group-owned Kingfisher Airlines had bought a majority stake in Deccan last year and later announced a merger of the two. By bringing them together, Kingfisher, which would have completed five years in 2010, gets to piggyback on Deccan’s right to fly international routes from later this month when the low-cost carrier completes five years of continuous domestic operations, a requirement defined by the government for an airline to be eligible to fly overseas routes.
A request by Kingfisher to run its services brand together with the Simplifly Deccan brand was turned down in February but, on Thursday, the ministry official said that decision would not have been fair, given that the government had allowed state-run National Aviation Co. of India Ltd to run the Air India and Indian Airlines brands under separate so-called air operator’s permits (AOP), or airline licences, even after the firms’ merger.
“We can’t have one set of rules for national carrier and another for them,” this official said, asking not to be quoted. The merging of airline technology platforms, which are critical for bookings and route sharing, can take months. The integration of Air India and Indian Airlines’ systems, for instance, is still not complete—a year after the process of legal merger.
“As far as the ministry is concerned, we don’t have any issue...they have to meet the DGCA (rules) now,” civil aviation minister Praful Patel said on Thursday when asked if there was any hurdle left for Kingfisher to fly international.
The civil aviation regulator, DGCA (short for Directorate General of Civil Aviation), which examines factors such as the airline’s infrastructure, qualified pilots, engineering facilities and commercial operations in the destination country while allocating international routes, is yet to give a final go-ahead to the airline’s plan.
Flight plan: A Kingfisher aircraft in Mumbai. Photograph: Hemant Mishra / Mint
In April, DGCA director Kanu Gohain had said that there can be only one airline brand under one AOP.
Until now, the regulatory response to Kingfisher’s ambitious plan to fly overseas was not clear given the technicalities involved in the merger of two different firms and the country’s complex aviation laws that do not allow two brands to operate under one airline operating licence, unless permission is granted as an exception.
The permission to run two brands under one AOP potentially means Kingfisher can run both its eponymous brand and Simplifly Deccan brand domestically as also in international operations, which it starts on 3 September subject to DGCA approvals. Kingfisher plans to start flights to the UK, Singapore and Hong Kong—all in September.