The Civil Aviation Ministry is all set to “tweak” the existing norm for international flying by domestic carriers with certain riders, despite major Indian airlines favoring its continuation.
According to highly-placed sources, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, his deputy Mahesh Sharma and aviation secretary R N Choubey are expected to hold a meeting this week to finalise the ministry’s “view” on the vexed issue which is hanging fire since 2013.
“The ministry will take a final view on the 5/20 norm soon. While doing so, it has to keep the industry’s interest in mind and not of individual players or groups. This can be done only by tweaking of norms than abolishing it altogether,” the sources said.
The ‘5/20 rule’ stipulates that an Indian airline will be allowed to fly abroad only if it has five years of domestic flying experience and at least 20 aircrafts in its fleet.
The Ministry will take a “balanced” view on the whole issue before conveying its decision to the Union Cabinet for approval, they said adding “the two ministers are expected to hold a meeting with the aviation secretary to take a decision.”
“There are definitely going to be checks and balances like airlines may be asked to deploy certain capacity, say 40 per cent or more, on domestic routes. This would restrict them from diverting a larger of the capacity to international routes (which are lucrative) at the cost of domestic connectivity,” they said.
The development assumes significance in view of the fact that new player AirAsia India has demanded scrapping the 5/20 norm wherein another startup airline Vistara deferred its plans to induct more planes in its fleet, after the government failed to take a decision on the issue last year.
Co-incidentally, both Vistara and AirAsia India have investments from Tata Group.
Significantly, the proposal to review or scrap the 5/20 rule had come up during the tenure of former aviation minister Ajit Singh and around the same time when Tata group evinced interest in investing in airline sector.
The established players-Jet Airways, IndiGo, SpiceJet and GoAir - under the umbrella of Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), however, have opposed any tweaking or scrapping of the norm.
National carrier Air India, which too had earlier opposed the review, has of late dropped its opposition.