No one except Tatas can run Air India, says Emirates chairman

No one except Tatas can run Air India, says Emirates chairman

Emirates chief Tim Clark says only Tata Group can run Air India

Doha:

It is not easy for an airline to operate in India and if the Tata Group cannot operate Air India, no one else in the country will be able to, says Emirates Chairman Tim Clark .

“Air India should be as big as United Airlines. It is expected to be so large due to its domestic market as well as non-resident Indians (NRIs) abroad and the amount of economic activity flowing in and out of India. It’s a goldmine,” Clark said on Monday.

While Air India currently has about 128 planes in its fleet, Chicago-based United Airlines has about 860.

“You (India) have a billion people with an NRI population that is so large and constantly growing that the idea that Air India is not one of the largest international carriers in the world defies all sense” , Mr. Clark said. here on the sidelines of the 78th Annual General Meeting of the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

The Tata Group took control of the loss-making and debt-ridden Air India on January 27, after successfully winning the airline’s bid on October 8 last year.

“I think the best thing that could have happened to Air India was for Tatas to take over. I’m probably the only one in this room who flew on Air India when it was run and owned by Air India. And it was a great airline. One of the first airlines to buy Boeing 707s in 1959 or 1960, it didn’t matter when that was,” Clark said.

He noted that for decades, Air India continued to be a small player on the international stage.

India’s international passenger market is dominated by international airlines like Emirates, one of the two national airlines of the United Arab Emirates.

Emirates – which operates 170 flights connecting Dubai with Mumbai, Delhi, Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Kolkata, Ahmedabad and Thiruvananthapuram – carries a significant number of Indian passengers from India to Europe and the United States with a stopover to Dubai.

While Air India has remained a small player in the international passenger market for decades, there have been many casualties in the Indian aviation market like Kingfisher, Mr Clark noted.

Many private carriers in India have done their best under extraordinarily difficult conditions, not the least of which is that fuel prices in India are extremely high because the government imposes a lot of taxes on them, he said. .

“So it’s not easy to operate in the Indian market even though the population is quite upwardly mobile and becoming more and more mobile over time. So you need a pair of safe hands with business acumen to be able to make it work (Air India). If Tatas can’t make it work, no one there (in India) can make it work,” he said.

One thing India has is a huge demand that a lot of countries don’t have, he said.

When asked how the rise of Air India would affect Emirates, he replied: “As far as Emirates is concerned, well, come on, quite honestly. I mean, there’s something for everyone. “I think the point is that they (passengers) like our product. We are pushing our A380 planes to places like Mumbai. “they (Indian passengers) would like one of their own to go to places like Vancouver etc? It has always depended on people like us (Emirates). Thank you very much. We are very grateful. And we continue to ask for more (permission to operate more flights between India and Dubai),” he said.

Mr Clark said Emirates was just filling the void in India’s international passenger market as no other airline in the country has been able to “take over”.

“And even if there were, it still wouldn’t be enough. It’s such a huge population,” he added.

Emirates, through the UAE government, has requested more bilateral rights from the Indian government to operate more flights between Dubai and India.

When asked if he sees more opportunities to operate cargo flights to India after the India-UAE Free Trade Agreement (FTA), Clark replied, “Anything I can say is that it is in the hands of the Indian government. Since 2015, we have been asking for more points, more frequencies and more seats. “I think it’s really up to them. I don’t think anyone can be more persuasive than us about the value of doing this,” he added.

He said he hoped the new FTA would not only deal with freight but also the movement of passengers.

“But these things have always been, dare I say, vexing to the Indian government,” he added.

When asked if he had seen any change in the behavior of the Indian government late on this issue, he replied, “Not really.” “I have seen both countries joining the FTA, but it has not manifested in more flights to India. Hopefully that will come,” he added.

In order for airlines from a particular country to operate international flights to a city in another country, both parties must negotiate and sign a “Bilateral Air Services Agreement”, which decides the number of flights (or seats) per week allowed to fly. From one country to another.

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