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Airlines go to Sitharaman with FDI concerns

Press Trust of India / New Delhi 15 Mar 17 | 01:00 AM

Representatives of domestic airlines' grouping, the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) on Tuesday met Commerce and Industry Minister Nirmala Sitharaman and raised concerns over a move to permit overseas players to establish carriers in the country.

The federation - comprising Jet Airways, SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir - have been vociferous about their opposition to foreign entities being allowed to invest in local carriers.

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The meeting assumes significance as it comes nearly a week after Qatar Airways announced plans to set up an airline in India, along with the Gulf nation's sovereign wealth fund.

During the meeting with the Commerce and Industry Minister, the FIA representatives flagged concerns about allowing 100 per cent ownership of local carriers by foreign entities, sources said. Among others, SpiceJet Chairman and Managing Director Ajay Singh was present at the meeting. In a tweet, the commerce and industry ministry said "key stakeholders the #airlines industry" met the minister.

Last week, Singh and Jet Airways acting Chief Executive Officer Amit Agarwal had met Civil Aviation Secretary R N Choubey and the discussions were mainly around the 100 per cent foreign direct investment (FDI) issue. As part of liberalising norms for overseas investments, foreign non-airline players can own up to 100 per cent stake in local carriers.

In a strongly-worded letter to the ministry on January 3, the FIA had raised concerns about foreign players acquiring ownership in Indian airlines. Once foreign controlled airlines are established as Indian carriers, they would gain automatic access to defence airfields, the grouping had said. 

Qatar Airways CEO Baker Al-Baker had on March 8 announced in Berlin plans to establish an airline in India. 

"We are joining hands with the investment arm of State of Qatar to start a domestic airline in India with a 100 per cent investment," Al Baker had said.

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