Qatar Airways Plans to Start a Domestic Airline

Qatar Airways and the state-run Qatar Investment Authority plan to start a domestic airline in India, the Gulf carrier's CEO has said. If the plans fructify, this will be the first instance of a fully foreign entity-owned local carrier in the country, after Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened up the sector for 100% FDI last June.

India on June 21 last year allowed 100% foreign direct investment in its airlines, up from 49% previously. A foreign carrier can, as before, hold up to 49% stake but other foreign investors can fully own the airline.

Qatar Airways, led by Al Baker, has been making constant efforts to make a significant headway in to the Indian aviation industry. Al Baker has in the past publicly expressed his intentions of buying a stake in the country's largest carrier IndiGo, but the talks haven't fructified. He has also aggressively advocated the concept of Open Skies or unlimited flying rights between the countries. Qatar and India currently work on bilateral air service agreements under which both carriers from both countries can operate a stipulated, equal number of flights on either air route. The Indian air travel market, the fast growing in the world, is key to Qatar's plans of challenging the aggressive expansion of its two mighty rivals Dubai's Emirates and Abu Dhabi based Etihad Airways. Emirates has the greatest chunk of bilateral rights to India while Etihad, along with strategic partner Jet Airways ferries the largest number of international passengers out of the country. Etihad owns a 24% stake in Jet.

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