New Delhi: Billionaire businessman Vijay Mallya’s ambition of taking his Kingfisher Airlines international inched closer to reality with the government starting to notify overseas destinations to which the carrier’s subsidiary, Simplifly Deccan, will be allowed to fly.
Mallya’s UB Group last year bought Deccan Aviation Ltd, operator of India’s oldest low-fare airline then known as Air Deccan, which is merging with three-year-old Kingfisher Airlines Ltd to create the country’s second largest airline group by passengers flown.
One reason for the acquisition was to speed Kingfisher’s expansion into profitable international routes ahead of schedule. Under Indian aviation rules, an airline has to complete five years of operations on domestic routes before it can fly overseas; Deccan completes this milestone on 26 August.
The civil aviation ministry this week sent a note to the ministry of external affairs to inform the authorities in at least 13 countries that the airline will be eligible to fly to cities there from this date, according to a copy of the note seen by Mint. The destinations are in the US, the UK, Singapore, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Maldives, Pakistan and Hong Kong.
Still, it is unlikely that Kingfisher Airlines will operate on the proposed international routes given the losses Indian and global carriers have piled up as they reel under record fuel prices and decelerating passenger traffic growth.
“We are revaluating our plans with the fuel prices what they are and we will take a decision soon on our international operations,” said Hitesh Patel, executive vice-president of Kingfisher Airlines. Mallya has said in the past that he wants Kingfisher Airlines to fly long-haul overseas routes and limit Simplifly Deccan to cities in West Asia.
Deccan on Thursday informed the National Stock Exchange that the Karnataka high court had approved its merger with Kingfisher. But a senior civil aviation ministry official, who did not want to be named, said it has so far not received any formal communication from the airline on this.
Unless documents on the merger are submitted and approvals sought, the international traffic rights sought by the group will be given to Deccan and not to Kingfisher, this official clarified.