Qatar Airways plans to launch fully-owned airline in India with 100 planes

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Qatar Airways is planning to set up a short-haul airline in India with a fleet of 100 narrow-body planes, renewing a push to gain a bigger share of one of the world’s fastest-growing travel markets.

“We will soon be making an application to that effect. And from there we will proceed,” Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told a press conference in Berlin.

Al Baker said he wanted to set up a full service Indian carrier to fly domestic routes with around 100 narrow-body planes, now that the country had opened up the airline industry to foreign investors.

The airline would operate 100 single-aisle aircraft such as Airbus’s A320 or Boeing’s 737 and would be a full-service, rather than a budget, offering, Financial Times quoted Mr Al Baker as having said.

“Yes we will have a 100% owned domestic carrier in India that will belong to both Qatar Airways and our state investment arm as India has now allowed foreign direct investment in domestic carriers within India,” Economic Times quoted Al Baker.

If the plans fructify, this will be the first instance of a fully foreign entity-owned local carrier in the country, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened up the sector for 100% FDI last June.

India on June 21 last year allowed 100% foreign direct investment in its airlines, up from 49% previously.

Under current rules foreign airlines are still restricted to holding a maximum stake of 49 percent in Indian carriers, but other foreign investors may own up to 100 percent.

Qatar Investment Authority, the sovereign wealth fund that backs Qatar Airways, would be the most suitable vehicle for establishing an airline in India, the CEO said in a media briefing. The fund could use his carrier to run the venture, he said.

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According to Bloomberg, Al Baker has sought to use QIA as a vehicle for Indian expansion before, with the fund unable to secure a position in Indigo during the IPO after failing to gain the approvals in time.

Al Baker is targeting an Indian foothold after Gulf rival Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi took a 24 percent stake in Jet Airways India Ltd. Leading Asian carriers Singapore Airlines Ltd. and AirAsia Bhd. also have 49 percent holdings in their affiliates in the subcontinent, Bloomberg added.

Published on 9 March 2017

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