Jet chief Goyal meets Ajit, 'briefs' him on Etihad deal

Jet chief Goyal meets Ajit, 'briefs' him on Etihad deal New Delhi/Mumbai: Ahead of clinching a deal with Etihad, Jet Airways chief Naresh Goyal Thursday met Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh and is understood to have briefed him on the ongoing negotiations over the Gulf carrier's investment move.

Singh and Goyal were closeted for about 45 minutes with sources saying that the Jet-Etihad deal was on the agenda.

Since the government relaxed ownership rules and allowed foreign airlines to buy up to 49 percent stake in Indian airlines, the Abu Dhabi-based carrier has been in talks for a 24 percent equity stake in Jet worth around USD 300 million.

A few weeks ago, Etihad paid Jet USD 70 million for the latter's three slots at London's Heathrow Airport.

A major factor for the delay in clinching the deal is the absence of a Bilateral Investment Protection Agreement (BIPA) between the two nations, with Indian negotiators trying to convince UAE government not to hold the deal till BIPA was finalised.

Goyal's meeting in Delhi came days after his airline urged the government to substantially expand the air service capacity between India and Abu Dhabi by three-folds and allow it to operate code-share flights with Etihad to 23 cities by 2016.

Urging the government to initiate talks with Abu Dhabi on the bilateral air services agreement, Jet wrote to the Civil Aviation Ministry seeking its nod for expanding its services through Abu Dhabi and expansion of bilateral aviation ties with that country.

Similarly, other carriers have also sought massive expansion in their weekly schedules, with IndiGo demanding over 5,000 more flights, SpiceJet 5,936 more and Air India 2,400 additional services, official sources said.

Following this, the Ministry officials met officials of all airlines earlier this week to seek their justification for enhancing their air services.

PTI