Pvt carriers may get to fly local fliers on int’l flights
The privilege is currently enjoyed by state-owned Air India
PRIVATE airlines like Jet Airways and Indi-Go may soon get to fly local passengers on the domestic leg of their international flights, a privilege currently enjoyed by state-owned Air India. It means a Bangalore-London flight with stopover in Delhi could book passengers for the Bangalore-Delhi sector.
Before liberalising the rules, the aviation ministry would discuss the proposal with the home ministry. The move will help airlines strengthen operations on the popular hub-and-spoke model under which carriers bring flyers from various cities to its hub and then take them to onward journey using bigger jets.
“Airlines have sought permission to operate international flights with carriage of both domestic and international passengers on the domestic leg. They have also asked for operating standalone domestic-cum-international flights using ‘through flight numbers.’ We would take up the matter with the home ministry,” an official said, quoting recordings of a meeting.
The decision was taken at a meeting chaired by aviation secretary RN Choubey on August 29. Several senior airlines executives and airport operators attended the meeting. According to industry sources, Jet Airways has been pitching for this, as it would help private airlines operate flights more efficiently.
“The reason for not extending the benefit to all carriers has generally been attributed to insufficient number of custom officers who could board the plane that have both local and international passengers,” an executive said.
Custom officials are required to fly in a domesticcum-international flight to ensure that no illegal activity takes place on board.
To make things easier, airlines assign seat number to passengers in such a way that domestic and international passengers are not mixed up.
Air India has many flights that feed its international flights to longhaul destinations like London, New York and San Francisco. Permission to carry domestic passengers in international flights help Air India reduce unsold inventory, which is perishable. It also improves average load factor, passenger flown per seat per km, leading to better revenue.
“The relaxation available to Air India should be available to all airlines,” another airline executive said.
While effort is on to liberalise rules and regulations for the sector, the government is also in the process of divesting part or full of its stake in Air India. The proposed move to allow private carriers carry local passengers on domestic leg of their international flights signals that Air India selloff is not far away.
The government has already invited initial bids for appointing transaction and legal advisors for disinvestment of the national carrier.
In an advertisement, the department of investment and public asset management on Thursday said it requires the services of reputed law firms with experience and expertise in mergers and acquisitions/takeovers/strate gic disinvestment/private equity transaction to act as legal adviser and assist government in the process.
"The government of India has in-principle decided to consider the disinvestment of the AI Group as a whole or its constituents fully or part thereof through strategic sale with transfer of management control,” it said.