Qatar Airways will soon apply to start an airline in India: CEO

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Qatar Airways will soon apply for starting an airline in India, which will be a full service carrier operating within the country, the airline’s chief executive has said.

While the proposed airline will be fully-owned by Qatar entities, it will have an Indian chairman and majority of board members will also be from India, Times of India reported quoting Akbar Al Baker, Qatar Airways CEO.

“Indian foreign direct investment rules clearly state that a foreign entity can own 100% of a domestic carrier and we’re going by that rule. However, it’ll be a carrier in India that’ll be managed by Indians. The entire board, minus one or two people, will be all Indians including the chairman,” Al Baker told TOI in an exclusive chat.

“Our lawyers have started working on our application. We’ll soon get some clarification from Indian government authorities to give us the exact direction on how we can start the process (and) formally apply for the (licence) sometime soon,” he added.

India has market for more airlines

When asked about Air India being divested, with Vistara being a likely bidder, does Qatar see place for another FSC in India, he said, “India is such a big aviation market that if there’re 10 airlines, there’ll be stomach for more. India is a huge market which is under-served. You’ve airlines that aren’t so financially strong to be able to cater for this very large Indian population that want to travel by air.”

With Indian permissions for foreign investors, barring foreign airlines to own 100% stakes in local carriers, and India becoming the fastest growing investment opportunity in the world, Qatar Airways has started exploring such opportunities.

In March last year, Baker had said Qatar Airways plans to set up an airline in India along with the Gulf nation’s sovereign wealth fund.

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Last December, the airline had said it would like to add more flights to India in the future as the country is an economic superpower and an important destination for it.

In February this year, Akbar Al Baker had told the media in France “we will launch an airline in India which will have a fleet of at least 100 aircraft”. However he did not specify what type of planes will be deployed in India.

Published on 3 May 2018C

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