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India’s aviation policy a major hurdle, says Branson

New Delhi, November 19
The Indian government’s civil aviation policy has prevented it from starting a domestic airline or investing in existing airlines in the country, British business tycoon Sir Richard Branson of Virgin Atlantic said today.

“The market is protected at the moment and if it ever opens up to true competition, the customers will find us on the domestic route,” Sir Branson said.

The domestic airline segment has been reclassified as ‘domestic scheduled passenger airline sector’ in a recent note submitted to the Cabinet Committee on Economic Affairs (CCEA) and the bar on foreign airlines has been emphasised strongly.

Though foreign investment is allowed in domestic carriers, foreign airlines are barred.

A note submitted recently by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion to the CCEA said the bar on foreign airlines, investing in India, can not be lifted at present.

Initially, the government was trying to protect Air India, but now it has opened up the market, Sir Branson said, adding that the company has successfully operated long haul flights from Delhi and Mumbai. The civil aviation ministry has been saying foreign airlines would not be allowed to invest in domestic carriers till home-grown players have established themselves to withstand overseas competition.

In time, the government will realise that true competition is good for Indian customers, Sir Branson added. He said he has talked to the government on the issue and hopes for a favourable response.

He said he would prefer stretched version of the Airbus A380 superjumbo for his Virgin Atlantic Airways. “Ideally, we’d like Airbus to stretch them and Airbus is seriously looking into it. For the A380 to be really competitive, it needs to be even bigger than it currently is,” he stated. — UNI

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