GoM consensus on aviation policy likely at meeting next week

New Delhi: The new civil aviation policy, which was to be settled at a meeting of a Group of Ministers (GoM) on Thursday, could not be finalised and will come up for consideration at another meeting of the GoM next week. The meeting was also meant to finalise norms for allowing Indian carriers to fly abroad.

According to industry sources, a majority in the GoM, headed by external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee, is understood to favour the continuation of current norms, and feel that these should form part of the new policy.

According to current norms, only those airlines can launch global operations that have put in at least five years of service in the domestic sector and have a 20-aircraft fleet.

So far, Jet Airways is the only private carrier that qualifies under such eligibility criteria and has already launched global operations. Newly merged Kingfisher-Air Deccan combine, who are yet to complete merger formalities, have been arguing for a relaxation of norms, citing changed circumstances in the aviation sector.

Air Deccan will complete five years of domestic operations later this year and hopes to allow partner Kingfisher to piggyback on its license to operate abroad.

Industry sources say that a majority of the ten-member GoM apparently favour a continuation of the prevailing norms, and are opposed to the ministry of civil aviation becoming a nodal agency for deciding such issues on a case-to-case basis.

It is understood that the matter may be settled taking into consideration existing bilateral air traffic rights with various countries, the existing capacity that can be filled in and the capacity of the airlines and their aircraft fleet to fly abroad.

Besides Mukherjee and civil aviation minister, Praful Patel, the GoM also includes senior ministers AK Antony, P Chidambaram, Kamal Nath, Lalu Prasad Yadav, Ambika Soni, S Jaipal Reddy, HR Bharadwaj, TR Baalu and deputy chairman of the Planning Commission, Montek Singh Ahluwalia.