By Devidutta Tripathy and Siva Govindasamy
NEW DELHI/SINGAPORE Jan 14 India could ease
restrictions that prevent some of its domestic airlines from
flying on international services within a month, potentially
benefiting start-ups set up by Singapore Airlines and
Malaysia's AirAsia that aim to begin operations in
New Delhi is also considering a proposal to allow Airbus's
A380 planes to land at local airports, aviation
minister Ajit Singh said on Tuesday.
India's ban on A380s is mainly due to concerns that foreign
carriers may further hurt state-run Air India by grabbing a
larger share of international traffic.
Under existing rules, Indian carriers are also required to
be in operation for at least five years and have 20 aircraft to
be eligible to fly international routes.
Singh told reporters that New Delhi would seek the federal
cabinet's approval by next month to "scrap this rule".
"At a macro level, this restores credibility to the Indian
aviation sector," said Amber Dubey, an aviation expert at
consultancy KPMG, of the Indian government's plans.
"It shows that the policy direction is always towards
greater competition, the respect for logic, and being more
aligned to global best practices," he said.
Indian conglomerate Tata Sons has formed a joint venture
with SIA to start up a full service carrier, which is expected
to begin operations in the second half of 2014.
Tata is also an investor in AirAsia India, which is expected
to compete in the Indian low-cost market from the second half of
the year. Indian low-cost carrier GoAir, which began operations
in 2005 but has fewer than 20 aircraft, could also be a
India's overall air passenger traffic is expected to triple
from 2010-20 to 452 million annually, as rising income levels
help more people fly in the country of 1.25 billion.
BIG PLANS FOR BIG PLANES
Dubey said opening up the market to A380s could push down
international fares as one aircraft can accommodate more
passengers, keeping costs lower.
He said major airports in New Delhi and Mumbai were already
in position to receive the super-jumbos, but smaller airports
would need to be assessed to see if they can handle the planes.
"We have asked for comments from ground handling and
immigration, security basically. Because this is the
infrastructure which will be affected because one plane will
have up to 500-600 passengers at a time. So we are awaiting
their comments," said civil aviation minister Singh.
A change could benefit carriers like Singapore Airlines,
Emirates, Lufthansa and British Airways
that operate the super-jumbo and fly to India, as well A380
customers like Etihad and Qatar Airways who have not taken
delivery of the aircraft.
Kingfisher Airlines was the only Indian A380
customer, but Airbus said on Monday that it had revoked that
order. The Indian carrier, which had ordered five A380s, stopped
operations in October 2012 after several years of losses.