Let AirAsia, Vistara serve India first: Ajay Singh to Tata


With Ratan Tata accusing older airlines applying “monopolistic pressures” to retain 5/20 rule, SpiceJet chief Ajay Singh today said the industrialist should ask Vistara and AirAsia to serve India before getting to fly international.

Joining the debate over the 5/20 norm, under which Indian carrier need to have minimum five years operational experience and at least 20 planes to operate international flights, Tata today applauded the Civil Aviation Ministry’s proposal to remove the “controversial” rule.

Terming as sad the lobbying of incumbent airlines for “protection and preferential treatment”, he tweeted that such moves were reminiscent of the monopolistic pressures by entities with vested interests who fear competition.

AirAsia India and Vistara — two airlines operated by the Tatas through joint ventures — are ineligible to operate overseas under the 5/20 norm.

Reacting strongly to Tata’s comments, Singh said all the airlines were asked “to serve our great country before we got profitable rights to fly abroad” under the 5/20 rule.

“We served with great pride. What is wrong if these two foreign-controlled airlines are also asked to serve India before being allowed to fly international?

“Mr Tata, whom we respect greatly, should in fact urge these airlines in which his group is a shareholder, to serve India willingly before being allowed to fly international,” Singh told PTI.

The SpiceJet chief further said that the two airlines associated with Tata group had undertaken to follow the 5/20 rule while obtaining their licenses, but “they are now opposing (this rule) so vehemently”.

He also alleged that “it is evident that these airlines are controlled by their foreign parents”.

“This is in complete violation of Indian laws that require airlines in India to be effectively controlled by Indian shareholders. Mr Tata should urge these airlines to follow Indian law in letter and spirit.

“No country in the world, including Singapore and Malaysia, allows its airlines to be controlled by foreign airlines. If Indian airlines like SpiceJet and Indigo are not allowed in these countries, why should they be allowed to control airlines in India?,” he added.

Recently, the industry body FIA had also alleged that AirAsia India was being controlled by its foreign joint venture partner AirAsia.

A delegation of FIA (Federation of Indian Airlines) — a grouping of established airlines Jet Airways, SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir — has submitted a memorandum to Prime Minister’s Office on their opposition to removal of 5/20 norm and on the issue of substantial ownership and effective control.

The government is currently in advanced states of finalising its new civil aviation policy.

While AirAsia India is less than two years old with six aircraft, Vistara, which started operations in January 2015, has nine planes, making them ineligible to fly abroad.

Tatas along with Singapore Airlines run Vistara, while AirAsia is a three-way joint venture between Tata group, Malaysia’s AirAsia and Arun Bhatia’s Telstra.