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AirAsia top brass meets senior ministers

Special Correspondent
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Ajit Singh assures them of early clearances and NOC

Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh (right) with AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes and former chairman of Tata Group Ratan Tata after a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. —Photo: R. V. Moorthy
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh (right) with AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes and former chairman of Tata Group Ratan Tata after a meeting in New Delhi on Tuesday. —Photo: R. V. Moorthy

Top brass of AirAsia, accompanied by their advisor Ratan Tata, on Tuesday met senior ministers in the UPA government, holding a series of meetings with them.

AirAsia Group chief Tony Fernandes and AirAsia India’s newly appointed CEO Mittu Chandilya held separate meetings with Union Finance Minister P. Chidambaram, Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh and Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma.

AirAsia got the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) approval three months ago to set up the joint venture for the proposed airline. The company is a 49:30:21 joint venture between Malaysian carrier AirAsia, the Tata Group and Arun Bhatia of Telestra TradePlace.

As per procedures, the joint venture has applied for a No-Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Civil Aviation Ministry and submitted documents, including names of the new airline’s board, its CEO and other top officers, which were now being scrutinised for security clearance by the Home Ministry.

“They came here for security clearance for Air Asia. We will examine (their application) and take a call as soon as possible,’’ Mr. Shinde later told journalists.

AirAsia chief Tony Fernandes briefed all the ministers about the new appointments and other developments in the proposed airline.

The Civil Aviation Minister also assured them of early clearances and NOC once the nod came from the Home Ministry. The AirAsia chief said that he was looking at October to start operations.

To questions on high air fares in India, the AirAsia chief said, “We think we will be able to reduce fares by increasing volumes, creating an economic stimulus and creating more jobs” despite the high cost of jet fuel.

While the headquarters of the airline would be based in Chennai, the operational bases could be at Chennai, Bangalore or Kochi, Mr. Fernandes said.

“Almost 50 per cent of the air travel market is between Delhi and Mumbai. We will try to rebalance that so that India has a more equal distribution of air traffic,” he said.

Earlier, Mr. Tata said, “This is a different type of enterprise which Mr. Fernandes is bringing. Hopefully, it will spread air travel across India and give a new dimension (to the aviation sector). The Tata Group is pleased to be associated with it”.

In a statement, Janata Party President Subramanian Swamy alleged that the new airline proposal was approved “in violation of all norms, rules, regulations and policy governing civil aviation sector, FDI rules and the national security imperatives”.

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