India mulling stakes for foreign carriers: Patel (Lead)

February 20th, 2009 - 9:29 pm ICT by IANS  

Mumbai, Feb 20 (IANS) The government is examining a proposal to allow foreign carriers to pick up stakes in domestic airlines, which are facing a crisis on account of economic slowdown, Civil Aviation Minister Praful Patel said here Friday.
“The consultation process is on,” Patel said at the groundbreaking function for a new integrated terminal at the Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport here to be built by a consortium led by the Hyderabad-based GVK group.

“We can’t give a timeline, but I am hopeful the current government would be able to take a decision on the investment proposal,” the minister told reporters. India currently disallows foreign carriers to pick up equity in domestic airlines.

Patel said the government would do everything possible within its means and mandate to help domestic airline companies meet the current crisis that has now been compounded by a fall in passenger traffic.

“I don’t think at this point giving a direct financial concession or assistance is possible. But short of writing a cheque, anything that can be done in terms of policy measures, will be done,” he added.

Patel said the government will take a serious view on any move to operate a cartel in the Indian aviation space and said that the latest round of collective price hikes by airlines was being investigated into by the anti-trust commission.

“Cartelisation will not be allowed and we will come down heavily on it,” he said.

Patel conceded that the aviation sector had suffered in the past year due to the spiralling aviation turbine fuel (ATF) prices, followed by the economic slowdown. Then came the Mumbai terror attacks of Nov 26-29, which also hit international traffic.

He, however, argued that as far as the ATF prices are concerned, the government had already initiated several steps, including slashing duty on the fuel and a cut in its price.

Mumbai’s new terminal over 4.3 million square feet will be able to handle around 40 million passengers annually and will boast of 184 check-in counters, as well as 700,000 square feet of retail space, food courts, lounges and other travel-related services.

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