Qatar Airways is keen to buy equity in IndiGo if the Indian carrier offers 49 per cent stake to it, a top official has said as he sought the opening up of the Indian aviation market for established airline companies.
“If IndiGo offers us 49 per cent, Qatar Airways would be extremely interested,” Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker told reporters on the sidelines of the unveiling of the new Airbus A350-900 in Doha yesterday.
He said that India should open up to carriers such as Qatar Airways as they are already established.
“We would be able to deliver what they (India) want faster than all the new entrants in the Indian market,” Al Baker said.
“Qatar Airways will always have a very keen interest in growing in India and investing in the aviation industry in India,” he said.
However, he ruled out buying stake in SpiceJet or GoAir.
He said Indigo is the only efficient carrier in India but added that the country cannot depend on only one airline.
Al Baker acknowledged the presence of Vistara and AirAsia in the Indian aviation market but said airlines don’t grow overnight.
“They need at least five to 10 years to really deliver the potential India requires,” he said.
Calling Modi a forward-looking individual who has big plans for India, Al Baker said he had “absolute confidence” in his government.
“I have very high expectations and confidence in the individual (Modi) because it is for the first time in my memory that India has a leader who has the best interest of India in his mind and not personal agendas,” he said.
“We hope that now with the new government that is pro business, pro economic development, pro providing jobs to people they will consider aviation as a very important tool in delivering this vision that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has for India,” he said.
“You cannot talk about ‘Make in India’ unless you open up the air services to India, the airways to India to fulfill the vision he (Modi) has,” he said.
“It is extremely important for the Prime Minister to put the aviation growth in India as priority,” Al Baker said, adding that India has already lost Kingfisher while other airlines such as Spicejet and AirIndia are struggling.
He also said that he has approached diplomatic channels in order to arrange a meeting with Modi to look at future investment opportunities in the aviation sector.
Al Baker called Qatar a “very close friend of India”, adding that the Gulf country has a close political and trade relationship with India.
Qatar provides a large chunk of natural gas to India and fulfils the country’s fertiliser requirements, but it is unfair that the Gulf national carrier has least bilateral traffic rights, he said.
Qatar has an entitlement of 24,000 seats per week while India has enhanced Abu Dhabi’s weekly seat capacity to 50,000 and Dubai enjoys 54,000 seats per week.
On being asked whether Qatar Airways would be deploying the new Airbus A350 XWB aircraft on any Indian route, Al Baker hinted that the airline would be interested in doing so but such a thing is unlikely to happen anytime soon.
“I am only going to receive eight aircraft (A 350 XWB) this year. It is not enough, we need more, but we have already deployed Boeing Dreamliners (B 787) to India and till A350 came, this was the most advanced plane we had,” he said.
Qatar Airways is the launch customer for Airbus A350 XWB aircraft which will start its commercial operation on January 15 with a flight from Doha to Frankfurt.
The A350 XWB, powered by two new-generation Rolls Royce Trent XWB engines, features the very latest in aerodynamics, design and advanced technologies.
The jet offers advanced air conditioning technology and LED mood lighting to enhance comfort while reducing fatigue after a long flight. In addition, the jet will also offer in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity to all passengers.
With the delivery of the first of the 80 A350 XWB aircraft that Qatar Airways has ordered, the airline has become the first in the world to operate every family of Airbus’ modern airliner portfolio, comprising the A320, A330, A340, A350 and A380.