BERLIN: Qatar Airways Chief Executive Akbar Al Baker said he wanted to set up a full service Indian carrier to fly domestic routes with around 100 narrow body planes, now that the country had opened up the airline industry to foreign investors.
Seeking to extend its reach Qatar Airways has been buying stakes in other airlines, and Al Baker said at the ITB travel fair in Berlin that India was next on Qatar’s list, once it has finalized a deal with Italian carrier Meridiana.
Last June, the Indian government had allowed Indian carriers to be fully owned by foreign entities.
Under current rules foreign airlines are still restricted to holding a maximum stake of 49 percent in Indian carriers, but other foreign investors may own up to 100 percent.
Qatar’s sovereign wealth fund QIA could own the carrier, and Qatar Airways would then take a stake, Al Baker said.
“We work in partnership. They may use us to run the airline,” he said.
Qatar Airways has previously talked of investing in Indigo, but missed out on taking a stake in its IPO.
Al Baker said taking a stake in an existing carrier was off the table now, but that Qatar Airways was talking to two Indian carriers to code share with them.
At present, only three Indian carriers have investment by foreign airlines. Abu Dhabi’s Etihad has a 24% stake in Jet Airways. Singapore Airlines has 49% stake in Vistara and AirAsia Berhad have 49% in AirAsia India.