Qatar Airways is planning to expand services to India by starting a short-haul airline with a fleet of 100 narrow-body planes. This step is being taken to tap into India’s burgeoning travel market.
Making this announcement at the ITB Berlin festival, Akbar al-Baker, Chief Executive Officer of Qatar Airways, said, “The Gulf carrier will make an application to the Indian authorities soon and we will proceed step-by-step in this direction.”
Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), the sovereign wealth fund that backs Qatar Air, would be the most suitable vehicle for establishing an airline in India, the CEO said in a media briefing. The fund could use his carrier to run the venture, he said.
The step of Qatar Airways is significant as the Indian government last June allowed 100 per cent FDI in the airline sector.
Baker further said, “The India plan won’t involve a joint venture. We intend to capitalise on the country’s very progressive moves on outside investment.”
Baker has sought to use QIA as a vehicle for Indian expansion before, with the fund unable to secure a position in Indigo during the latter’s IPO after it failed to gain the approvals in time. If the latest plan does succeed, the new airline’s majority foreign ownership would likely limit it to domestic flights under International Civil Aviation Organisation rules.
The Doha-based company also wants to start a domestic airline in Saudi Arabia; though a license has been delayed for years, prompting it to deploy jets elsewhere.
Baker is targeting an Indian foothold after Gulf rival Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi bought a 24 per cent stake in Jet Airways India Ltd. Leading Asian carriers Singapore Airlines Ltd. and AirAsia Bhd. also have 49 per cent holdings in affiliates on the subcontinent.