New Delhi: The civil aviation ministry won’t shorten the minimum norm of five years of service for domestic carriers seeking to fly overseas as the group of ministers (GoM) discussing this has been disbanded, said two officials with knowledge of the matter.
The 12-member GoM had been formed in 2007 to take a view on a proposed civil aviation policy, of which the rule change on overseas operations was a part. At the time, three-year old Kingfisher Airlines Ltd was pushing hard for the amendment so it could start international operations without waiting for five years.
The move means that overseas services will be limited to carriers with five years of domestic experience and 20 aircraft. As for the overall policy, civil aviation minister Praful Patel told the Lok Sabha on 29 April that most of the initiatives outlined in the document had been implemented.
These include the airport development policy, revised foreign direct investment guidelines for cargo airlines and other steps, he said.
Photo: Ritesh Uttamchandani/Hindustan Times
“Private domestic airlines have been permitted to fly on overseas routes subject to specified guidelines,” Patel had said, referring to SpiceJet Ltd and Kingfisher, which had been granted international flying approval as they had completed five years.
InterGlobe Aviation Pvt. Ltd-run IndiGo has already sought approval to fly abroad next year when it turns five. Turning five this year are GoAir (India) Pvt. Ltd and Paramount Airways Pvt. Ltd, but they fall short on the fleet requirement front, with eight and two aircraft, respectively.
There are only two aviation GoMs currently—one that’s looking into allowing an airport in Greater Noida, near New Delhi, and another constituted late last year to look into the turnaround of National Aviation Co. of India Ltd-run Air India.
With Indian carriers contributing 34% of the total seats on offer for flights to or from India, not having a clear policy may deter investors.
“A policy is a document and needs to be in place. It is required for every ministry. You can change it with time and events, but otherwise ad hocism comes in,” said Sanat Kaul, a former joint secretary at the aviation ministry, who also represented India at the International Civil Aviation Organization. “It is an intent that it is going to be there for, say, the next five years or so. So the investors know where they stand.”
Kaul recalled that such a draft aviation policy proposal had been in the works since 2001 and while some recommendations from a 2003 Naresh Chandra committee report have been picked up, many issues have remained unattended. “They have not implemented some portions of it; they are cherry-picking. Aera (Airports Economic Regulatory Authority) has been picked up, Air India divestment, which was there in the report, was not,” Kaul said. “A policy would have helped.”