Caught in a bind over the '5/20 norms' for domestic carriers to fly overseas, the government today conceded the demand of the promoters of old airlines for a "patient" hearing on the issue even as it said no decision has been taken on the fate of the regulation.
At a meeting, chaired by Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju, the promoters contended that relaxing of the norms will have negative impact on domestic connectivity and services and may lead to rise in airfares.
The meeting comes at a time the Civil Aviation Ministry is preparing a draft note on the new aviation policy to take it to the Cabinet for its approval. The Ministry also has to take a call on the 5/20 norm.
"We submitted our views on the 5/20 norm. All we want from the government is to ensure a level-playing field and domestic connectivity while taking a decision on this issue," a member of Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA) said after the meeting, which lasted for over an hour.
The decade-old regulation requires an Indian carrier to have a minimum five years of domestic flying experience and a fleet of at least 20 planes to fly overseas.
The meeting was attended by Jet Airways Chairman Naresh Goyal, IndiGo promoter Rahul Bhatia, its President Aditya Ghosh and SpiceJet Chairman Ajay Singh, among others.
"The government on its part said that no decision has been taken with regard to 5/20 norm. During the meeting, we put across our views on other issues in the proposed policy such as the issue of substantial ownership and effective control and auctioning of bilateral traffic rights," the member said.
Noting that the issue of substantial ownership and effective control of a domestic airline needs to be addressed, he said, "The government has already allowed creation of international hubs by the Gulf carriers operating into India and if this issue is not taken up now, more such hubs will come up, putting Indian airlines at a disadvantage position." A controversy had been triggered when the Civil Aviation Ministry held a meeting with two Tata Group-promoted startup airlines -- Vistara and AirAsia India -- to discuss the proposed aviation policy as part of the stakeholders' consultation on the draft civil aviation policy.
The FIA, which comprises Jet Airways, SpiceJet, IndiGo and GoAir, and claims to represent more than 90 per cent of the domestic airlines industry, took strong objection to this "one sided" confabulations which had also included discussions on international flying norms for domestic carriers, popularly known as "5/20 norm".
Significantly, both AirAsia India and Vistara are lobbying for the removal of the 5/20 norm so that they can fly on international routes.
On the contrary, FIA wants the 5/20 regulation to be retained on the ground that its removal will lead to airlines deploying a large part of their aircraft on the international routes at the cost of domestic connectivity.
As of now three private carriers --Jet Airways, SpiceJet and IndiGo -- have international operations besides the state-run Air India.
GoAir, which is into domestic operations since 2005, is still not qualified for flying overseas as the airline is one short of the required number of aircraft (20) in its fleet.
AirAsia India and Vistara, which started operations only in June 2014 and January 2015, respectively and have just six and nine aircraft in their respective fleets, also cannot fly overseas under the 5/20 norm.