Qatar Airways to float new airline in India – but no bid for Air India

Qatar Airways has finalized its long-awaited plan to float an airline in India. They will apply to start a full service carrier to operate within the country, owned by Qatar Airways and other investors from Qatar, conforming to the investment restriction of a foreign airline not owning more than 49 per cent equity in any Indian carrier, although 100 per cent direct foreign investment is permitted.

Quelling speculation, the airline has clarified that it is not bidding to buy the beleaguered, debt-ridden Indian national carrier, Air India, which is up for sale.

Akbar Al Baker, chief executive of the Qatar Airways Group said: “Our lawyers have started working on our application. We will soon get some clarifications from the government authorities in India to give us the exact direction on how we can start the process and formally apply for the licence sometime soon.”

Baker elaborated the airline’s plans stating, “If an Indian airline has more than 20 aircraft, it can operate outside India. The airline that we are launching will operate within Indian even beyond 20 aircraft.”

A majority of the airline’s board will consist of Indians, and will be headed by an Indian chairperson, but will not have any Indian partners as partial owners. Qatar Airways currently flies daily flights to Doha and beyond from several key cities in India and is a major market share holder for Indian outbound travel to the West.