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Home > Business > PTI > Report

Kingfisher Airlines set for US launch

March 27, 2007 17:53 IST

Domestic private carrier Kingfisher Airlines, impatient to launch international services, will in the next six to eight weeks apply for launching an airline in the US that would enable it operate flights into India.

"Our detailed application is being compiled by our attorneys and it will be submitted in the next six to eight weeks," Kingfisher Airlines chief Vijay Mallya said when asked about the status of his plans.

"Thereafter, it will take another six months to get the necessary clearances" for launching the airline, he said.

He said the domestic airline, which has ordered Airbus A340-500 aircraft among others, planned to start long-haul international operations after this wide-bodied plane is inducted.

"It will be delivered to us in a year from now". Asked about Kingfisher operating on international routes from India, the liquor baron said, "We still continue to request the government to relax the five-year rule".

Under the present rules, a domestic airline can launch global operations only if it has a fleet of 20 aircraft and has put in five years of operations within India.

He said if the government was permitting foreign start-up carriers to operate in India and grab the Indian market, it was "logical" that new Indian carriers are allowed to operate abroad.

"Hopefully, the government will agree". However, "if the government does not permit, I will fly from the US to India and back," Mallya said. Kingfisher would be inducting as many as 20 planes - 11 ATR turbo-props and nine Airbus - this year. It would induct wide-bodied aircraft like A-330s and A340-500s from January next year.

Maintaining that fiscal year 2008-09 would be the "break-even year" for Kingfisher, Mallya said while cash-burn for the full-frill carrier was coming down, its passenger load factor was "consistently high".

He said there was a great demand for Kingfisher's First Class as, for example, the Delhi-Mumbai-Delhi route was witnessing a consistent 90 per cent load factor.

To questions on going public to raise money for the carrier, he said, "There is no compulsion. We could raise private equity also. I will not give Kingfisher shares cheap. I can't let down my shareholders".

The liquor baron said there were several institutional shareholders who would back the airline in any case. "The IPO will depend on the valuation of the airline", he said.

Referring to the Indian cricket team's debacle in the World Cup, Mallya said he wanted to splash big advertisements about introducing live television on board its aircraft for the passengers to see the cricket matches.

"But I refrained from doing so (advertisements) after they (Indian team) lost. However, passengers can still watch news or their favourite TV channels on board", he said.

In an assertive note, he said, "We have invested in being different. And that shows in our product quality".

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