No delay from aviation ministry in clearing AirAsia's JV: Ajit

There would be no delay in granting necessary approvals to Malaysian carrier AirAsia for its proposal to start an airline here with Tatas if all required information is provided to government agencies, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said Sunday.

Mumbai: There would be no delay in granting necessary approvals to Malaysian carrier AirAsia for its proposal to start an airline here with Tatas if all required information is provided to government agencies, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh said Sunday.

"There are some procedural issues which will be settled and there is nothing to worry. We welcome AirAsia-Tata Joint Venture (JV) and hope that it will be operational soon," he told reporters on the sidelines of Routes Asia Conference here.

"The procedure is (that) they have to get a no objection certificate (NOC) from the ministry. The Home Ministry will also check the directors' background... And we will check (if) adequate capital requirement is there, two-third directors are Indians among others.

"And once they get the NOC, they will go to DGCA to get the operator's permit...A lot of information and data is needed because safety is a very big concern in this sector... But, if the JV provides the required data, there will be no delay from the aviation ministry and DGCA in making the JV operational," Singh said.

The minister was reacting to media reports about the JV getting stalled at the Civil Aviation Ministry as it was apparently not keen to allow the Malaysian company to start a new venture in the country.

The Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) on March 6 had cleared the AirAsia?s bid to launch an airline in India by joining hands with Tata Sons where the Malaysian carrier would hold 49 percent stake, Tata Sons 30 percent and Arun Bhatia of Telestra 21 percent.

Referring to the possible Jet-Etihad deal, the minister said that something positive is happening in this space.

"They (Jet-Etihad) are discussing and the fact that recently Jet sold their slots in London and leased them back, means something positive is going on there," he said adding that the ministry is considering the Jet's request for code sharing with Etihad positively.

He also said the government is going to start talks with Abu Dhabi for more traffic rights as all the existing rights were nearly exhausted.

"Last year, we were flying about one lakh passengers to Singapore and Gulf Countries. This year, we have granted 80,000 more seats to Indian carriers and now we are matching the foreign carriers. So, now the time has come for talks with them to increase traffic rights," he said.

Talking about the grounded Kingfisher Airlines, Singh said that the airline was yet to submit a credible plan to the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) to restart the operations.

"They (Kingfisher) have not yet given a feasible and credible plan to DGCA. They want to start it and we want to start it. See, any company once it shuts down, there are lot of problems like employees problem...Lot of collateral damage...But, unless they give a credible plan, that they can restart with safety and (they have) enough financial depth to maintain the schedule, DGCA will not consider it..The detail plan is yet to be submitted...," he said.

Singh also pointed out that it is difficult to ask the airports to keep the slots reserved for Kingfisher Airlines.

"...Money is lost by the airports, if they keep slots reserved... I don't think, we can ask them to continue to bear those losses. When they (Kingfisher) apply, DGCA gives them licence, they can get slots again," he said.

As regards releasing of the leased aircraft of Kingfisher, he said that the government would follow international norms in this regard.

Replying to a query on the status of erstwhile Deccan Air founder Captain Gopinath's application to start a scheduled airlines, Singh said that the company would need to activate the existing regional airlines licence first.

"That's (the application of Capt Gopinath) not in DGCA. They have a regional licence and they have not activated that. We will consider that application only after they acted on the licence they already have," Singh said.

Meanwhile, the minister said that the performance of public carrier Air India was improving and it was set to report positive EBIDTA (Earnings before Interest,Depreciation, tax and amortisation) this financial year.

"It will be for the first time since 2007 that Air India will be reporting positive EBIDTA. Not much though ...About Rs 20 crore despite Dreamliners being put on hold. But, you have to consider last financial year when EBIDTA was negative by more than Rs 2,000 crore," he said adding it is likely to report EBIDTA of over Rs 1,000 crore in the next fiscal.

He also said that the market share of Air India had improved from 15 percent to 20 percent in last few months with improvement in all other parameters like load factor and yield among others.

Referring to resuming operations of Dreamliners by Air India, Singh said, " what information we have from Boeing... in April, they should be able to fly," he said.

About airfares, he said that the ministry did not intend to regulate the airfares but wanted the system to be transparent.

Allaying concerns regarding the post-merger issues of Indian Airlines with Air India, he said that most of the recommendations of Justice Dharmadhikari committee have been implemented and promotions are likely to be given from next month that were held up for the last five years.

Terming air safety as an area where there can be no compromise, Singh said the country is second to none in air safety standards.

"Air safety is one area, which in no way we can compromise. If you look at overall figures over last many, many years, in safety, we are second to none," Singh said adding the air safety in the country has improved and it has complied with a majority of International Civil Aviation Organisation's safety recommendations.

He also informed that Civil Aviation Authority bill would be forwarded to the Law Ministry soon which would lead to the setting up of the authority and passengers may be charged nominal Rs 5 per ticket to take care of its financial requirements.