Thiruvananthapuram | Keen on having a state- sponsored airline, Congress-led Kerala government has again asked the Centre to waive certain norms that will pave the way to start ‘Air Kerala’, an international budget carrier catering mainly to Gulf countries.
As the Centre has denied the state’s earlier requests, Chief Minister Oommen Chandy once again wrote on June 8 to Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju. Under the present rules, an airline can fly international routes only after five years of domestic operations and having at least 20 aircraft, Chandy told the state assembly today during the question hour.
Kerala has sought exemption on the above conditions, he said, adding that the state could not start the project as it failed to fulfill these conditions. The government planned a publicprivate partnership (PPP) mode for the airline similar to that of Cochin International Airport Ltd that runs the Nedumbassery International airport near Kochi.
The project is being planned mainly for conducting services from Kerala to the Gulf countries, where more than 2.5 million people from Kerala are living. Originally conceived in 2005, ‘Air Kerala’ was registered as Air Kerala International Services Limited a year later, during Chandys first stint as Chief Minister. However, the project failed to take off in the next five years of LDF rule. Consultancy firm Ernst and Young, which conducted a study in 2006, found the project feasible.
The project also got a good support from Non-resident Keralite (NRK) investors. The UDF regime’s decision to revive the ‘Air Kerala’ proposal in 2011 came against the backdrop of airfares, especially on Gulf routes, being exorbitantly high during holiday season. Such instances were affecting the travel plans of many people from Kerala who are based in the Gulf.
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