New Delhi: Owners of India's biggest private airlines met Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh on Saturday to seek concessions for the crisis-hit sector. They pointed out the need to rationalise sales tax on jet fuel and faster approvals for private airlines to fly on international routes where bilateral rights from the Indian side remain underutilized.
The airliner chiefs included Jet Airways' Naresh Goyal, IndiGo's Rahul Bhatia, SpiceJet CEO Neil Mills and GoAir's Jeh Wadia.
Kingfisher promoter Vijay Mallya and civil aviation minister Vyalar Ravi were both absent. This is significant as Ravi had initially rushed to announce government support for Kingfisher when the financially embattled carrier made unannounced mass cancellations of services earlier this month.
Ravi backtracked quickly as industry and public opinion seemed unanimous that the government had no business to be announcing support for private enterprises. Surprisingly, he received quick support from the prime minster himself who, quite uncharacteristically, announced that he would look into bolstering Kingfisher.
While stating that private airlines need to be run efficiently, Singh said: "But if they do get into difficulties, we have to find ways and means to help them get out of the process."
The absence of both these gentleman from Saturdays meeting may be considered a tactical move to remove any inferences from the meeting and give it more neutral air.