Vistara’s overseas plan will not get derailed due to CBI probe

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New Delhi | Published: September 20, 2018 5:05:45 AM

Civil aviation secretary RN Choubey said the inquiry against AirAsia India is not an obstacle for Vistara, a JV between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, to get approvals under the national civil aviation policy of 2016.

The CBI has alleged that AirAsia India officials bribed the government officials and used lobbyists to get foreign flying eligibility relaxed in 2013-14. (File photo: Reuters)

The ongoing CBI probe into the relaxation of overseas flying norms in which low-cost carrier AirAsia India is embroiled, will not impact full service carrier Vistara’s application to ply on international routes, a senior government official said on Wednesday.

Civil aviation secretary RN Choubey said the inquiry is not an obstacle for Vistara, a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, getting approvals under 0/20 rule as laid down in the national civil aviation policy of 2016.

“We are going to go by what law says. If an airline fulfills the minimum 20 aircraft criteria it is eligible to fly abroad. The case (CBI inquiry) will not come in the way. We will deal with Vistara’s application on merits,” Choubey told FE.

The CBI is probing alleged kickbacks to government officials to facilitate dilution of the 5/20 rule during the tenure of the United Progressive Alliance government. Under this provision, an Indian carrier required domestic flying experience of five years and minimum 20 aircraft on local routes to fly abroad.

However, these rules were relaxed to just 20 aircraft in June 2016.

The CBI has alleged that AirAsia India officials bribed the government officials and used lobbyists to get foreign flying eligibility relaxed in 2013-14.

Vistara had sought the ministry’s permission to fly international routes earlier this year. The full-service carrier plans to start international operations before the end of 2018. Vistara CEO Leslie Thng had recently said the airline was looking at western destinations apart from serving the Southeast Asia.

“We are looking at places where (bilateral) rights are available. Our goal is not just to fly Southeast Asia. We can look at the Europe, the US,” Thng had told reporters at the induction of airline’s 22nd aircraft.

As per the initial plan, Vistara has sought permission to the neighbouring countries like Sri Lanka, Maldives and Thailand. The airline has an order book of 56 narrow-body and wide-body aircraft in the next four-five years.

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