Sapphire plans cheap US-India airline

Sept 29 | Updated: Sep 30 2006, 06:43am hrs
Delaware, USA-based Sapphire Airways is planning to start a low-fare airline that will offer flights between India and the US, becoming the first US low-fare carrier to fly to India.

The company is raising $100 million to set up the discount carrier, said chairman Rahul S Puranik in Mumbai.

The company would soon apply to the US department of transport and the federal aviation authority for license to start the carrier by October 2007, he said.

India and the US last year signed an air services agreement to permit more flights between the two countries. About two million people travel between the US and India every year. Said Puranik, a former pilot, With deepening ties between the two countries and the economic growth in India, travel will only grow.

Sapphire wants to fly to India from the USs East Coast with a fuel stop in Europe. The company is in talks with individual investors and has obtained commitments for about $45 million of the $100 million it requires, he said.

Passenger traffic on US and Indian carriers between the two countries rose 86% in 2004 from 2000, according to the US transportation department last year.

Industry consultant Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation is helping Sapphire raise funds and draw up a route network, Puranik said.