Qatar Air to apply soon to start an airline in India
Qatar Airways (QA) will soon apply for starting an airline in India, which will be a full-service carrier operating within the country. The proposed airline will be fully-owned by Qatar entities and will have an Indian chairman and majority of board members will also be from India.
According to QA Group chief executive Akbar Al Baker, “Our lawyers have started working on our application. We will soon get some clarification from government authorities in India to give us the exact direction on how we can start the process (and) formally apply for the (licence) sometime soon.”
Qatar will not have an Indian partner in this proposed airline. “Indian foreign direct investment rules clearly state that a foreign entity can own 100% of a domestic carrier and we are going by that rule. However, it will be a carrier in India that will be managed by Indians. The entire board, minus one or two people, will be all Indians including the chairman,” Al Baker said.
“If an (Indian) airline has more than 20 aircraft, it can operate outside India (as per Indian rules). However the airline that we are launching will operate within India even beyond 20 aircraft,” Akbar Al Baker said.
India currently has three full-service carriers (FSC) — Air India (AI), Jet and Vistara. When asked about AI is being divested with Vistara being a likely bidder, does Qatar see a place for another FSC in India, he said, “India is such a big aviation market that if there are 10 airlines, there will be stomach for more. India is a huge market which is under-served. You have airlines that are not so financially strong to be able to cater for this very large Indian population that want to travel by air.”
The chief executive, however, clarified that the launch of the proposed airline will not be linked to India acceding to Qatar’s long-standing demand for grant of more bilaterals or flying rights.