• Air India wants to rejoin lobby group

    Two years after government-owned Air India (AI) walked out of the Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), citing differences in opinion, it has approached the lobby group to return, said three sources.

    They say chairman Ashwini Lohani feels it will give more muscle to AI’s demands when it approaches the government as part of a group. FIA is now a lobby group of the country’s private airlines, which presses for change in public policy and regulations. At present, IndiGo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways and GoAir are members, together almost 80 per cent market share. AI’s joining will give a shot in the arm to the group, which has been strongly opposing the move for relaxing the 5/20 rule for plying abroad. The rule, described by aviation minister Ashok Gajapathy Raju as anti-business, made it mandatory for an airline to have plied for at least five years and having 20 aircraft before being allowed to fly abroad. It was partially diluted in June, with the norm of five years being removed.

    According to a senior AI executive, Lohani has written to the group, “expressing interest to join the group”. “Air India is facing similar issues as the FIA members are, such as high airport charges or oil companies increasing the price of air turbine fuel arbitrarily,” the official said.

    However, the official added, AI would be cautious against becoming a party to any case which the lobby group files against the government. FIA is currently engaged in a legal tussle with the government against the decision on reducing charges for extra baggage allowance.

    A senior executive of a private airline which belongs to FIA confirmed the AI development. “The FIA board will decide on the request in a special meeting this month,” he said.

    AI left FIA in November 2014, citing discomfort on taking a stance against the government and differences among member carriers on policy issues. Rohit Nandan, then chairman of AI, felt they were unnecessarily being dragged to court against the government. Blaine Gabbert Jersey

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