Millennium Post

Present rules don't allow airline to be fully owned by Qataris: Govt

New Delhi: The central government has indicated that it could turn down Qatar Airways' plan to launch an airline in India in its current investment format, with RN Choubey, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation saying that as per the current rules it was not possible to have an airline entirely owned by Qataris, reports Indian Express.

"Current policy of the government is that the substantial ownership and effective control should remain with Indian nationals and they will have to comply. You cannot have substantial ownership of more than 50 per cent because then you are violating the policy," Choubey said, on the sidelines of the International Aviation Summit organised by International Air Transport Association (IATA) here on Tuesday. He also pointed out that so far no formal proposal had been made by Qatar Airways.

Also on the sidelines of the event, Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar Al-Baker is learnt to have told reporters that the airlines that the rules of allowing a foreign entity to own 100 per cent domestic carrier were not clear.

"What we are given to understand is that an airline cannot own 100 per cent. A foreigner can but not an airline. I don't know what is the difference between a foreigner and an airline. If Qatar Investment Authority own 51 and I own 49 that is not allowed. Again, this is very ambiguous. The rule is not very clear," Al Baker said.

In reply to reporters seeking response on Al Baker's comments, Choubey said: "If he thinks that he should have an airline that is entirely owned by Qataris, presently it is not possible. If he thinks that he can run an airline that is 49 per cent foreign owned 51 per cent Indian owned, that is possible. They will have to find an Indian partner and it is possible."

It was in March 2017 that Al Baker first mentioned about its plans for a carrier in India. In February this year, he had said it plans to launch an airline in India with at least 100 planes.

The Qatar Airways chief executive also told reporters that the airline didn't have any problem in forming a partnership, but needs to find the right partner. "We have shown our interest to IndiGo many times. They didn't refuse but they are not ready to. We at Qatar Airways don't want to take a 2-3 per cent stake, we want substantial…at least 10-15 per cent stake," Al Baker said.

Last December, Qatar Airways 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.

As per the current foreign direct investment (FDI) rules for civil aviation sector, scheduled air transport service or domestic scheduled passenger airlines can have 100 per cent FDI through the automatic route as long as the investment is made by non-resident Indians (NRIs). For other entities or persons, 49 per cent FDI through automatic route is allowed and beyond that government approval is required.

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