PM to meet airlines chiefs on Saturday

New Delhi: Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will hold a meeting with chiefs of all Indian airlines on Saturday to discuss the situation being faced by the cash-strapped carriers and other related issues. Indian Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi said the air carriers had sought a meeting with the Prime Minister. "Prime Minister was good enough to give time for the meeting and he is meeting them," Ravi told reporters Friday.

Ravi noted that the airline sector in the country is running at loss posing a "problem". "PM is concerned about it, it`s the major institution of connectivity, supporting the development of the country," he added. Ravi declined to take questions about any special package for the airline indsutry.

To a query about moves to go for Foreign Direct Investment(FDI) in the aviation sector, the minister said he cannot make any comments since Parliament is in session. Manmohan Singh had on November 12 said that Government will explore "ways and means" to help the private airlines. "I have not applied my mind to Kingfisher`s problems. When I get back, I will talk to Civil Aviation Minister Vayalar Ravi and we will explore ways and means in which the airlines can be helped," he told journalists when he was asked about the Kingfisher airlines crisis.

Singh at the same time had said that private sector airlines should be managed efficiently. "But if they do get into difficulties, we have to find ways and means to help them get out of the process," he added.

Kingfisher Chief Vijay Mallya has questioned whether it was his airline`s "duty" to fly on loss-making routes. Thousands of passengers were affected after the private airline cancelled hundreds of flights.
The Industry Ministry has moved a draft Cabinet note on allowing 26 per cent FDI by foreign airlines in the domestic carriers. "Private airlines in the country are in dire need of funds for their operations and service upgradation to compete with other global carriers," the note circulated by the Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion (DIPP) said.