Vayalar Ravi said efforts should also be made to study the feasibility of the airline project as there was no precedent of granting major exemptions for starting a new airline

Is Kerala in pursuit of a pie in the sky? Expressing doubts over the feasibility of the Air Kerala project, Union Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi said here on Thursday that it “was a very difficult task to start an airline”.

Reviewing the various discussions held as part of the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas that concluded here on Wednesday, Mr. Ravi said starting an airline company “was not like operating a transport bus”.

“We need to look into various aspects, including necessary exemptions, financial capability [to run the company] and availability of bank loans before going ahead with the project,” he said.

Pointing out that even domestic services, including the cash-strapped Kingfisher Airlines, were finding it difficult to operate services profitably, Mr. Ravi said efforts should also be made to study the feasibility of the project as there was no precedent of granting major exemptions for starting a new airline.

The Minister said Chief Minister Oommen Chandy’s statement that State government will stake claim to Air India Express (AIE) shares if the Union government refused to relax conditions that hindered its airline from taking off might have come up after realising the difficulties involved in launching the Air Kerala project.

Mr Ravi said the chief ministers of various states who failed to turn up after agreeing to participate in the Pravasi Bharatiya Divas lost an opportunity to interact with people from their States.

Reacting to reports that the delegates, especially those from Gujarat, responded enthusiastically to Gujarat Chief Minister Narendra Modi’s address at the programme via video conferencing, the Minister said it “showed his interest (in tapping the opportunities)”.

Mr. Ravi said expatriates, especially those in the Gulf, had requested the Union government to appoint more staff in the embassies concerned. “I will soon place these proposals before the Ministry of External Affairs and also follow up on other demands,” he said.

Reacting to allegations that the Opposition Leader was not invited to the event, Mr. Ravi said this was a national programme and the Left MPs were invited.

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