//Poor Gulf Malayalis to get discount in

Poor Gulf Malayalis to get discount in

Thursday February 23 2006 11:23 IST

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: If the ambitious ‘Air Kerala’ project takes off, at least 15 seats will be reserved at 20-25 percent discount for Gulf Malayalis who have been unable to return to the state for five or more years. This was announced by Chief Minister Oommen Chandy at a post-cabinet briefing here on Wednesday.

“There are a number of Malayalis in the labour camps in the Gulf who have not returned home for as long as even 11 years just because they cannot meet their flight charges,” Chandy said. Even the ordinary charges would be very low for Air Kerala travellers, he said.

According to Chandy, Air Kerala had been conceived with the specific objective of helping Malayalis working in low-paying jobs in the Gulf. “We are not interested in profit,” he added.

Though the Centre is reportedly cold, the State Government, Chandy said, had found a new pitch to sell the ‘Air Kerala’ proposal. Treat Air Kerala the way Air India Express was treated, Chandy has urged the Centre.

The Chief Minister said that start-up conditions were waived in the case of Air India Express, which was a concern under the public sector Air India. These exemptions should be extended to Air Kerala as it was a Government of Kerala initiative, he added.

Further, Chandy said, the conditions had been laid for private airlines wanting to begin operations in the country.

To start a new airline, the Centre had laid down three major conditions. One, the company should have minimum five years’ experience of continuous domestic flying experience. Two, the new airline should have a minimum fleet of 20 aircraft. Three, new airlines will be allowed only in states where the Open Air Policy had been declared. The state has fallen short on all the three counts.