AirAsia's application to be cleared soon: Ajit Singh

Civil Aviation Ministry will clear the application of Air Asia India to launch its operations in the country as soon as it submits all the required data, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said Friday.

Updated: May 03, 2013, 17:54 PM IST

New Delhi: Civil Aviation Ministry will clear the application of Air Asia India to launch its operations in the country as soon as it submits all the required data, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said Friday.

He also suggested that the proposed airline, a joint venture between Malaysian airlines Air Asia, the Tatas and Telstra Tradeplace of Arun Bhatia, would save time if they also named the CEO of the company soon.

"They (Air Asia) have just submitted the application. The Ministry is looking at it. When all the data is there, I can tell you, the Ministry is very active, proactive. If we get all the required data it should be cleared very soon," Singh said.

He was asked whether the Ministry has found any problem with Air Asia India's application as it has been a week since they submitted the proposal.

On whether the Ministry has sought more data from Air Asia, Singh said, "I saw in the papers that the CEO's name was not there. So, asking that is really helping them because they have to go through the security clearance. If they reply, that will save time later on, otherwise it will pull on."

He was interacting with reporters after announcing the schedule of the 'India Aviation 2014' - a 5-day exhibition and airshow on the civil aviation sector - to be held in March next year at Hyderabad.

Following the Jet-Etihad deal, more countries have shown interest in such bilateral deals, Singh said.

"Demands have come from various countries. With Oman, we have discussed. Singapore we have concluded. We have done it with Abu Dhabi. Other countries have also asked and we are looking into it. There was lot of discussion about this," he said.
During the last one and half years, 80,000 seats were allocated to Indian carriers for their operations in Gulf countries and Singapore, Singh said.

"The way this sector is going to grow, we saw that last month, there was a seven percent increase in the passengers ... In the international traffic. I think we need a lot more bilaterals," he said.

Asked whether any more bilateral agreements were in the pipeline with Middleastern countries, Singh said, "Lot of countries have requested and we will look at all of them."

On the revival plan submitted by the Vijay Mallya-owned Kingfisher Airlines, he said the proposals have not yet satisfied the DGCA.

"The DGCA has to be satisfied that Kingfisher can have a safe and sustainable operation. So far they have not given a plan which DGCA considers safe and sustainable... What I have seen is that the DGCA said that it is not a complete revival and not a satisfactory revival plan," he said.

On resumption of the flights of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft, he hoped that it will begin by mid of May.

"The engineers (for Dreamliner) came last week and they take about a week for each plane. So by mid-May we expect local flights to start," he said.

On the decision to allow airlines to charge extra for the baggage and other services, he said presently all passengers pay for these services but after the new rule only those availing the services will pay for it.

"What happens is that there are lot of passengers who don't want any of those services, they don't need those services and they still have to pay. So therefore the airlines will make their money from the passengers who want those services," he said.

Singh also hoped that the decision will bring down the base fare of the airlines.

"That is what the experience of all the airlines is. Lot of new passengers should come and let's say if you go to Mumbai for a day, then you don't need that much baggage. So baggage should go down; that means the fuel cost should go down. So we do expect that the base fare will be lowered," he said.

Earlier addressing the conference, Singh said government has envisaged an investment of USD 12.1 billion in the airport sector during the 12th Plan period, of which 9.3 billion is expected from the private sector.

He said the opening up of infrastructure to private sector participation has fuelled the growth of air traffic in India. The Indian airport system was poised to handle 336 million domestic and 85 million international passengers by 2020, making India the third largest aviation market.

With this growing demand, Indian airlines are expected to add around 370 aircraft, worth USD 27.5 billion, to their fleet by the year 2017.

It is estimated that commercial fleet size would reach 1,000 from 400 today by 2020 and 1,000 more aircraft would be available in the general aviation sector. The estimated investment required for planes in the general aviation sector alone would be about USD four billion.

On the recent decision to allow 49 per cent FDI by foreign carriers in domestic airlines, he said this move would provide much-needed relief to the domestic aviation industry, reeling under the pressure of mounting losses and rising debt burden.

"Some carriers like Tata-Air Asia and Jet Airways-Etihad have already announced their collaboration which is expected to boost civil aviation both domestically and internationally," he said.

While Indian carriers have been allowed to import jet fuel directly, the Aircraft Acquisition Committee has also been abolished to liberalise the acquisition of aircraft by airlines, corporates and others, Singh said.