Indian Govt Wants More Indian Airlines To Take Up International Routes, Says Civil Aviation Minister

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COIMBATORE: The government wants Indian airlines to take up more international routes and is ready to sign new bilateral agreements towards this, said Union civil aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju Pusapati on Monday.

"The government would definitely not mind the increasing number of international passengers and raising freight. But this should contribute to our economy's GDP and not to another country's GDP," the minister said while reacting to a request from the industry to directly connect Coimbatore with Dubai.

The minister was in the city on an invitation from Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ICCI), which submitted a memorandum to him on improving the Coimbatore airport's infrastructure and connectivity.

"It would be a great help if Coimbatore was connected directly with Dubai because then we are directly connected to any destination in Europe," said ICCI president D Nandakumar.

"Now we are forced to send all our export-oriented goods to Dubai through Kochi, Bangalore, Kozhikode and Chennai, where we waste a whole night in transit," said former head of PSG Institute of Technology C R Swaminathan.

"Recently SpiceJet, which is an Indian carrier, and Fly Dubai met us saying they were ready to operate flights from Coimbatore to Dubai and back, if only the city is included in the bilateral agreement," he added.

"Right now we have industries in Karur, Palakkad, Tirupur and Coimbatore which need to send their goods to Europe, but are forced to send it through Mumbai, Kochi and Bangalore. We can bring all that freight business back to Coimbatore if we are connected to Dubai," stressed CII's Coimbatore zone chairman Ravi Sam.

The minister agreed to look into why Coimbatore was not included in the Bilateral Aviation Safety Agreement which included 18 cities, including Madurai and Trichy. However, he said Indian airlines were not making use of the existing bilateral agreements. "Such agreements are pointless if Indian airlines do not perform and use it," he added.

He maintained that the government was open to privatizing non-performing assets like certain airports and airstrips but said it would not be a solution. "There are so many airstrips which are running on heavy losses. Those even in the private sector would not be interested in," said Raju. "So we would probably try creating a mix which would result in the Airport Authority of India (AAI) getting a revenue out of everything," he added.

He said there were plans to professionalize the management of Air India. "There is a long way to go to turning around Air India and making it our nation's pride," he added.

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