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Ionides says his firm would like to operate international services, but that will depend on obtaining further regulatory approvals. (Ionides says his firm would like to operate international services, but that will depend on obtaining further regulatory approvals.)
Ionides says his firm would like to operate international services, but that will depend on obtaining further regulatory approvals.

(Ionides says his firm would like to operate international services, but that will depend on obtaining further regulatory approvals.)

We prefer to look forward rather than to look back: Nicholas Ionides

Ionides on Singapore Airlines’ third attempt to enter the Indian aviation market in partnership with the Tata group

Mumbai: Nicholas Ionides, vice-president, public affairs, at Singapore Airlines Ltd, commented in an email interview about the airline’s third attempt to enter the Indian aviation market in partnership with the Tata group. “We would like it to operate international services, but that will depend on obtaining further regulatory approvals," Ionides said.

Edited excerpts:

Why did you want to come back and start an airline in India after all these years?

India’s aviation market has been expanding rapidly and we have been eager to participate in this growth story for many years. With recent liberalization, we believe the time is right for this joint venture, which will help stimulate market demand and provide economic benefits to India.

What differentiation will you bring to the market?

Details relating to commercial matters will be revealed at a later date.

Did you look at the option of investing in any Indian carrier?

This is confidential.

Weren’t you aware of a potential conflict of interest—the Tatas had already joined with AirAsia to start a low-cost carrier? How will that affect this joint venture? Won’t they fight for the same passengers?

This is a question better addressed to Tata Sons. However, as stated in the press release (on the joint venture with the Tatas), this new airline will operate under the full-service model.

How will you challenge Middle Eastern airlines?

As mentioned above, details relating to commercial matters will be revealed at a later date.

By when do you plan to have the airline-up in the air?

The establishment of the airline is subject to approvals from FIPB (Foreign Investment and Promotion Board) and DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation). There is a regulatory process to be followed and it would not be appropriate for us to pre-judge how long this will take.

Why the shift to launch a full-service carrier when you are pursuing a low-cost model for long-haul and medium-haul with Scoot and Tiger?

There is no shift, as SIA has always been a full-service airline. Scoot was established to provide an additional engine of growth to the SIA Group, but not at the expense of SIA, which we continue to invest heavily in.

If this goes through, do you see this as a closure of the past two failed attempts?

We prefer to look forward rather than to look back.

How did the alliance with Tata start and materialize this time? What’s the story.

We have long maintained a close relationship with Tata Group. Beyond that, we are not in a position to share specific details of how the partnership came about.

How do you see the competition—Jet Airways and Air India—and their strengths and weaknesses?

We do not comment on others.

Will the airline have a CEO or be run by a president only?

The airline’s leadership team will be decided upon by the new airline’s board.

Will you invest in Air India if the government allows?

We do not comment on hypothetical situations.

How will the Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) open skies help the Singapore Airlines-Tata venture?

We do not have a comment to offer on this, beyond pointing out that the airline will begin with domestic services. We would like it to operate international services, but that will depend on obtaining further regulatory approvals.

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