In a reversal of its policy, the civil aviation ministry is open to relaxing eligibility norms for Indian carriers planning to fly abroad.
“We are open to relaxing eligibility norms required for Indian carriers to fly international. No one has approached us with a proposal to relax norms, but it can be looked at,” said civil aviation minister Ajit Singh. He said relaxation in the eligibility norms would also depend on the merit of the case.
According to the norms, an Indian airline should have domestic flying experience of at least five years and a fleet of 20 aircraft to be eligible to fly abroad. However, there are no such norms for international carriers flying into India. These only require permission under bilateral rights.
GoAir is the only Indian carrier that does not have the approval to fly abroad because it does not fulfill the minimum 20-aircraft fleet criteria. Due to financial constraints, Kingfisher Airlines has also stopped flying to foreign locations.
GoAir chief executive officer Giorgio De Roni recently said the carrier was studying possibilities to approach the government for allowing it to fly abroad with less than 20 aircraft. The airline operates with a fleet of 12 Airbus 320 aircraft, which it plans to increase to 20 by mid-2014. In June 2011, the airline had placed orders worth $ 7.2 billion for 72 new, fuel-efficient A320 NEO aircraft and the deliveries are expected to start in 2016.
The civil aviation ministry, under Ajit Singh, has allowed increasing the utilisation of foreign bilateral rights for Indian carriers to 40 per cent from the summer schedule, roughly equal to the utilisation by foreign carriers. Before this, Indian carriers were utilising only 22.7 per cent of the total foreign bilateral rights and foreign carriers were utilising about 40 per cent of their allocated rights.
India has signed bilateral rights agreements with about 100 countries and there are 834,000 weekly seats on international air routes. Of the 22.7 per cent utilisation by Indian carriers, Air India utilises 11.9 per cent, while the remaining four private carriers that fly abroad utilise a combined average of 10.8 per cent. International carriers utilise 37.9 per cent of the total ceiling.