New Delhi: Qatar Airways will look at setting up an airline in India provided there is a very business-friendly environment in the country's aviation sector, its chief Akbar Al Baker said on Thursday as he also expressed wish to expand the relationship with IndiGo.
The leading Gulf carrier, which has entered into a code share pact with IndiGo, would look at all opportunities in the Indian market that would not hurt existing relationships.
— CNBC-TV18 (@CNBCTV18Live) November 7, 2019
From its hub in Doha, Qatar Airways operates 102 weekly flights to 13 destinations in India and its cargo division has 28 weekly freighters to seven places in the country.
On plans to set up an airline in India, Baker told PTI that it could be looked at provided there is a very business-friendly environment in the aviation sector in India "which we don't think it is".
In September last year, he had said the airline would wait for "another 12 months" to decide on setting up an airline in India as it was seeking clarity on "ambiguous" foreign ownership norms.
"When you have such a wide sector of businesses and in nine everything is easy and in one which is very important, as important as other nine, is very difficult doesn't mean that everything is easy. You know what I mean right?," Baker said on Thursday when told that India's ranking in the World Bank's Ease of Doing Business Index has improved.
India improved its ranking for the second straight year, jumping 23 places to the 77th position on the back of reforms related to insolvency, taxation and other areas.
On what has changed in the Indian aviation sector, Baker said there is a new minister and he is very forward-looking.
"He (minister) is aggressive and I hope that he will see this huge potential of the Indian aviation market and let it to be realised," Baker, the chief executive of Qatar Airways Group, said.
Without providing specifics, he also said the airline has a very big wish to partner and expand its relationship with IndiGo.
"At the moment, I cannot say very much because we still have to work to get our systems compatible with each other for passengers from both airlines to be able to utilise this code share potential," he added.
Under the code share agreement, which is expected to be operational in December, Qatar Airways would place its code on IndiGo flights between Doha and three destinations -- Delhi, Mumbai and Hyderabad.
"This is is the first step of making a stronger commercial relationship with IndiGo. This code share on three destinations from India to Qatar will be a very big boost to the volume of passengers that IndiGo carries," he said.
Code sharing allows an airline to book its passengers on its partner carriers and provide seamless travel to destinations where it has no presence.
While noting that it was never late to be able to utilise opportunities in the Indian market, Baker said, "I am a businessman and any other opportunity that will come in our way which will not harm the relationship that we already have, we will be open."
He also said the airline is currently not looking at Air India, which was once one of the best airlines in the world and is not doing well now.
The government is in the process of finalising the contours for the divestment of the national carrier.
"Qatar Airways is right now not looking at Air India but that doesn't mean we are not interested. There are labour issues. If there is a strong investor for Air India, then the demand of the unions will increase. Mark my words for that," Baker said.
When asked whether Qatar Airways would be going through the Expression of Interest (EoI) document for Air India when it is issued, he said the airline always looks at every single opportunity that it gets.
"Not only in India but anywhere else. This is why we are now stakeholders in four major airline groups," he noted.
Qatar Airways has stakes in four groups -- Cathay Pacific, China Southern, Latam and IAG Group.
The airline, which has a fleet of over 250 planes, flies to more than 160 destinations across the world.
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Updated Date: Nov 07, 2019 19:41:03 IST