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Dubai entrepreneurs draw closer to launching Air Kerala

An ATR 72-600 in flight. Air Kerala will operate three of the aeroplanes in its initial stages ATR
An ATR 72-600 in flight. Air Kerala will operate three of the aircraft in its initial stages
  • Airline receives first certification
  • $12m initial fundraising plan
  • Domestic only with Gulf flight goals

Two Dubai-based businessmen are on the verge of launching Air Kerala, an ultra low-cost carrier in the Indian state, with long-term plans to offer flights to the Gulf.

The venture by Afi Ahmed, chairman of the travel company Smart Travels, and Ayub Kallada, chairman and managing director of Kallada Food Industries, made progress this week after receiving initial “no objection” certification from India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation to operate air transport services.

Zett Fly Aviation Private Limited will operate domestic flights under the name Air Kerala from the South Indian state, once it obtains its air operator’s certificate from the Ministry of Civil Aviation.

Ahmed said the initial plan was to raise up to RS100 crore ($11.9 million) to launch the domestic carrier with three ATR 72-600 aircraft as part of the first phase, later expanding into the international market with a fleet of 20 aircraft and routes to Gulf countries at “affordable fares”.

He said the company was open to working with the Kerala state government through a public-private partnership. It also welcomed funding from private entities, according to a report in The National.

Linus Bauer, managing director of the UAE-baed aviation consultancy BAA & Partners, said: “The ultra low-cost model remains relatively untapped in the Middle East, presenting a potential opportunity to exploit price-sensitive segments, if managed effectively.”

Indian domestic air traffic is expected by the aviation consultancy Capa rise by as much as 8 percent this year to around 164 million passengers.

Aviation capacity between the UAE and India remains a contentious issue.

Under a bilateral air service agreement signed by the UAE and India 10 years ago, both nations’ airlines are allowed to operate a combined total of 66,000 seats weekly between Dubai and 15 Indian cities.

The Dubai flag carrier Emirates has championed an increase in that by 50,000 a week, but India’s government has in turn demanded a 4:1 seat sharing ratio – four outbound seats for every one inbound seat.

The idea of Air Kerala was first sounded in 2005 and was registered as a fully owned subsidiary of Cochin International Airport the following year. However, the new carrier has been placed on the back burner by several governments since.

Last year Ahmed paid AED1 million ($270,000) for the domain name

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