The Centre would permit air travel from Madurai to Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Muscat only if Indian carriers evince interest in operating flights on this route and not otherwise, according to Virudhunagar Member of Parliament B. Manickam Tagore who is also a member of the consultative committee on civil aviation.

His statement is contrary to the claims made by a few trade bodies here that the decks had been cleared for operating Madurai-Singapore flight from January next.

Speaking to The Hindu over phone from Tiruchuli, he said that the Civil Aviation Ministry was particular in encouraging Indian airline operators to fly more international flights so that the country could earn foreign exchange.

“Our first priority goes to Air India followed by other Indian private airlines. We have been persuading Air India to operate the Chennai-Muscat flight via Madurai. Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Union Minister of State for Commerce and Industry E.M. Sudarsana Natchiappan and I are keen on improving connectivity from Madurai to international destinations,” he said.

Asked why the Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh declined Singapore’s request to add two additional points of call — Madurai and Pune – in a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Air Services signed between the two countries in April this year, Mr. Tagore said that it was done for bureaucratic reasons. The decision can always be reconsidered if Indian carriers were ready to operate in this sector, he added.

“The MoU enhanced by 10 per cent the capacity entitlement with India which was earlier entitled to operate 29,400 weekly passenger seats from India to Singapore and the designated airlines of Singapore entitled to operate 28,700 weekly passenger seats from Singapore to India. The request for additional points of call was declined because it would not have been beneficial to our country,” he said.

Citing the example of the Indian low cost airliner SpiceJet having begun operations to Dubai, the second international destination to be connected from Madurai apart from Colombo, Mr. Tagore said: “Similarly, if Indian airliners such as Jet Airways or the newly incorporated TATA SIA Airlines were ready to operate on the Madurai-Singapore route, the Civil Aviation Ministry will grant permission in no time,” he said.