Many challenges before Chandy's Air Kerala project: Experts

Last Updated: Mon, Oct 15, 2012 07:30 hrs

Thiruvananthapuram, Oct 15 (IANS) While Kerala Chief Minister Oommen Chandy is determined to see his pet Air Kerala project take off by April 14, 2013, aviation experts Monday opined that unless prudence was shown, it would end up the way of numerous other state-owned enterprises.

P.K. Devidas, an aviation professional with more than four-and-a-half decades of operational experience at the highest level with international airlines, said the simple rule that Chandy should adopt was to ensure that businessmen, bureaucrats and politicians were kept away from the proposed airline.

"Thorough professionals in the aviation industry should be recruited and they should be given full responsibility and made accountable. If those with no airline experience are recruited, it would end up as a miserable failure, as we have seen in our country in the aviation industry," said Devidas to IANS.

The Kerala government will apply to the Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) next month with the preliminary capital of Rs.100 crore.

As of now, the rules state that an airline can fly on international routes only after operating in the domestic sector for five years. But Chandy is hoping that with a battery of central ministers from Kerala, pressure can be applied to get rules relaxed.

Batting for Air Kerala is union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi, who wanted the central government to give exemption on the condition that the proposed airline should operate on domestic routes for a stipulated period of time.

Speaking to IANS, E.M. Najeeb, another veteran aviation professional said the project sounds interesting but it has to go through lot of hurdles, both technical and otherwise.

"Once a relaxation is made by the central government for Air Kerala, other players will also seek similar exemptions. In a way, this would be beneficial because then there would be even more competition than today with more airlines jumping into the fray, thereby turning beneficial to Keralites in the Middle-East, where the market for Air Kerala lies," said Najeeb.

There are more than 2.5 million Keralites presently working in Middle Eastern countries and all these years, they have been at the mercy of Air India and other international airlines.

K.V. Muraleedharan, president of the Kerala Association of Travel Agents said, "This project can be made a success but it's easier said than done, given the way a state government enterprise functions.

"The need of the hour is to garner as much capital that can be raised upfront. At no cost should this become an avenue for politicians to make appointments. Like Air India Express, each and every employee should only be recruited on contract basis. Above all, it should be professionally run, with politicians and bureaucrats being asked to keep away," said Muraleedharan.

An airline official here on the condition of anonymity said the first thing that Air Kerala should do is to have a fool-proof online reservation system.

"Everybody has access to the internet today. Hence, online bookings should be made simple. Air Kerala should also take care that under no circumstance should any free ticket be given to anyone, whatever be the reasons," said the official.

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