An inter-ministerial panel is understood to have today recommended the scrapping of a controversial norm for allowing domestic carriers to fly abroad amid an escalating tussle between four private Indian carriers and two new Tata Sons-invested airlines.
The 5/20 norm bars airlines from starting overseas operations till they have a fleet of 20 aircraft and five years of domestic flying experience which effectively keeps out Tata’s startup airlines Vistara and AirAsia India. A grouping of four private Indian carriers comprising IndiGo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways and GoAir wants the norm to continue.
The committee, chaired by Home Minister Rajnath Singh, met for the second time and discussed various aspects of the proposed new civil aviation policy.
While there has been no official word, sources said the panel is believed to have pitched for scrapping the 5/20 norm and replace it with some other criteria on the issue of allowing international flying for domestic carriers.
The meeting was also attended by various senior ministers including Ashok Gajapathi Raju(Civil Aviation) and Nitin Gadkari(Road and Transport).
The panel’s move assumes significance as the established and startup carriers are engaged in bitter war of words over the 5/20 norm, with noted industrialist Ratan Tata pitching for removal of this rule.
Tata Group owns stakes in two new carriers — AirAsia India and Vistara.
However, the Federation of Indian Airlines — that comprises Jet Airways, SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir — are vehemently opposed to scrapping 5/20 rule.
Though the draft Civil Aviation policy, unveiled in October last year, suggested various options with respect to the 5/20 rule, a final decision is yet to be taken.
Terming as sad the lobbying of incumbent airlines for “protection and preferential treatment”, Chairman Emeritus of Tata Sons Ratan Tata, last month, had said such moves (for continuation of 5/20 norm) are reminiscent of the monopolistic pressures by entities with vested interests who fear competition.
Tata Sons runs joint venture airlines, Vistara and AirAsia India, with Singapore Airlines and AirAsia respectively. Arun Bhatia of Telestra Tradeplace is the third partner in AirAsia India.
Hitting back, FIA had alleged that the demand to call for removal of 5/20 was not in “national interest” but “self-interest” on the part of the Tata Sons and its partner airlines.
Last month, Minister of State for Civil Aviation Mahesh Sharma had said the government would take a call on 5/20 rule at the right time.