Kingfisher may use Air Deccan for US flights initially

Vijay Mallya's Kingfisher Airlines is exploring the possibility of flying co-branded flights with Air Deccan to the US, in order to keep its promise of flying abroad by next year.

"Kingfisher will fly international in 2008 if the government relaxes the norm. If it doesn't, we may use Air Deccan to go abroad," Mallya is reported to have told the media. Kingfisher is planning flights from San Francisco to Bangalore and Los Angeles to Mumbai.

Indian government norms state that an airline can fly overseas only after it puts in five years of domestic operations. This means that Kingfisher will be eligible to fly overseas only in 2010, while Air Deccan will be eligible by August 2008.

The government has announced that it intends to relax the norm, but in a ministry where so many decisions go by quiet lobbying behind close doors, there is no certainty that the relaxation may come anytime soon.

Deccan Aviation chairman GR Gopinath confirmed Mallya's statement, "We will do everything required to help Kingfisher fly abroad. If need be, we can also look at co-branding," he told reporters. UB Holdings, which owns Kingfisher Airlines, has a 26-per cent stake in Deccan Aviation, which owns Air Deccan. UB is in the process of hiking this stake to around 46 per cent via an open offer, which will give it a controlling interest.