Alliance Air, a subsidiary airline of Air India, has been granted approval to start operating international flights from India to Sri Lanka. However… they actually started flying six months ago and thus have been granted approval retroactively and even without the necessary minimum fleet size of twenty aircraft!
What are the details?
The Indian government has ruled today that Alliance Air has the approval to operate an international route from Chennai, India to Jaffna, Sri Lanka with an ATR72-600.
However, Alliance Air actually started the route before it met a critical condition in the eyes of the Indian government to be allowed to fly internationally – a minimum domestic fleet size of 20 aircraft. So far the fleet of Alliance Air is made up of:
- A single ATR42-300.
- And eighteen ATR72-600s.
Thus, it was in strict violation of the rules that Alliance Air operated the route. It was only recently that the Indian government ruled on the airline and retroactively gave it permission to operate this new route.
“The Union Cabinet, chaired by the Prime Minister Shri Narendra Modi, has granted ex-post facto dispensation to Alliance Air, a 100% subsidiary of Air India, to fly on international sectors between India and Sri Lanka. A special dispensation is allowed for the interim period till Alliance Air deploys a minimum of 20 aircraft or 20% of total capacity, whichever is higher for domestic operations,” a Ministry of Civil Aviation statement said in a statement reported by CH-Aviation.
Why was it approved?
Now, it might seem at first that the airline operated without the backing of the government but there are several factors that made this a very special case.
The first is that Alliance Air is owned outright by Air India, a government-owned airline. Likely to allow the airline to quickly expand, the management saw an opportunity to open this new route. Knowing that they were backed by the government, they would have no problem getting approval.
Additionally, the 20 aircraft minimum only really applies to new airlines that do not have the support, or ownership, of another national carrier. As Air India has a much bigger fleet than Alliance Air, they could simply transfer the title of an existing aircraft to make up the numbers.
Alliance Air also had 19 out of 20 aircraft to reach the minimum. Unlike other operators who may have only a handful of aircraft, Alliance Air was so close that it makes sense to ignore this number.
The Indian government wanted the route to go-ahead
As expected, the most simple reason why the airline moved ahead was that they already had ‘permission’ to do so from the government. In fact, the government encouraged it.
According to CH-Aviation, the government wants to expand international routes to regional cities in Sri Lanka from their own regional centers.
“India has close bilateral ties with Sri Lanka and our interest is to increase connectivity and to expand people to people contacts between the two countries. Prior to this approval, there was no commercial operation scheduled from Palaly [Jaffna] and Batticaloa airports,” the Cabinet of India said.
Alliance Air plans to fly to Batticaloa soon when Sri Lanka finishes preparations at the now turned international airport.
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