Gulf carrier Qatar Airways’ proposed full-service airline in India is likely to set up its base in Bengaluru and provide connectivity from there to other parts of the country. At present, budget carrier AirAsia India, which is a joint venture between Malaysia’s AirAsia group and India’s Tata Sons, is the only local carrier which has its operational base in Bengaluru.
Akbar Al Baker, Chief Executive Officer of the Doha-based full-service carrier, had last month announced in Berlin that Qatar Airways was going to join hands with the investment arm of State of Qatar to start a domestic airline in India with a 100 per cent investment. “Qatar Airways proposed Indian subsidiary is likely to make Bengaluru as its base instead of Delhi or Mumbai,” an industry source said.
Qatar Airways, which is among the top three Gulf carriers, has been exploring investment opportunities in India.
The source also said that the new airline is expected to provide connectivity first from the southern India cities to other parts of the country and then expand to other regions.
Significantly, six cities of the total 13 that Qatar Airways flies to in India are in the South. A Qatar Airways spokesperson, in an e-mail response to PTI queries, declined to comment on the issue. “We cannot comment anything at this stage,” the spokesperson said.
Though Qatar Airways is yet to apply for government’s permission for setting up a domestic airline here, it has already started giving shape to its plans with the appointment of a local headhunter to hire fresh talent as well as professionals from the existing domestic carriers.
Significantly, the Persian Gulf carrier has been eyeing the fast growing domestic air passenger market, which became the third largest, beating Japan, after the US and China in 2016. “We are doing this (setting up a domestic airline in India) because Indian government has opened up the foreign direct investment in (setting up) an airline in India,” Al-baker had said on March 8.
On several occasions earlier, the Qatar Airways -which operates a significant number of flights from India to Qatar’s capital city Doha — had explored the possibility of buying stake in Indian budget carrier IndiGo. Last June, India allowed foreign investors — barring overseas airlines -to own up to 100 per cent stake in local carriers by liberalising FDI regulations.
Currently, foreign airlines are allowed to invest only up to 49 per cent in Indian carriers. However, the revised norms provide room for overseas airlines to partner with a foreign non-airline player to set up a 100 per cent foreign-owned carrier in India.