The government may soon notify new norms for domestic airlines to commence international operations with the much-debated 5/20 rule been sent for Cabinet review, minister of state for civil aviation Mahesh Sharma said at Express Group’s Idea Exchange.
Sharma said, “The positives and negatives of the 5/20 rule (which requires a domestic airline to have a fleet of 20 aircraft and operational experience of five years to start international operations) has been sent to the cabinet and will be up for review soon.”
Sharma’s comments come close on the heels of the civil aviation ministry firming up a formula — domestic airlines would have to earn credits by deploying capacity on domestic routes and trade them for international flying rights – to replace the 5/20 norm.
The new formula, designed to encourage long-haul operations, stipulate that a new airline will be allowed to operate on international routes, which are less than 6 hours away, with 600 domestic flying credits (DFCs) and will require to earn 300 DFCs to fly on routes beyond six-hour. A senior official in the Ministry of Civil Aviation had explained, “We have raised the eligibility criteria for flying on mid-haul routes so as not to divert traffic to hubs in West Asia and South-east Asia. Airlines will be encouraged to operate long-haul international flights.”
The new formula being proposed by the civil aviation ministry for permitting airlines to start international operations, once approved, will replace the ‘5/20’ norm.
Currently, Indian airlines are required to have a fleet of 20 aircraft and five years of operational experience to start overseas flights. As per the new proposal, airlines will have to accumulate DFCs by flying to more cities in India and will have the right to fly oveseas once the credits cross a certain threshold. These DFCs can be earned by flying to India’s top 20 cities and to smaller cities with airports. The ministry has also proposed a buy-and-sell arrangement under which 25 per cent of such DFCs can be purchased from regional airlines or helicopter companies.
Airlines have, however, raised questions on the new formula and said it is too complicated.
Sharma also said that the much-awaited civil aviation policy and an expert committee to decide on the future roadmap for Air India will be notified in the next 2-4 weeks. Since the civil aviation policy deals with several important issues including new norms for international operations by domestic carriers and regional connectivity, Sharma said, widespread consultations with all stakeholders is a necessity.
“I admit there has been a delay on both fronts. But it should be in place in the next 2-4 weeks”, the minister added.