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Pvt airlines allowed to fly to all SAARC nations

Our Bureau

New Delhi , Dec. 10

THE dream of scheduled private sector airlines to operate to destinations abroad was fulfilled today, with the Union Cabinet giving its nod to allow them to fly to all the SAARC countries - - Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Bhutan and Maldives.

The Cabinet decision means that the three scheduled private sector airlines - Jet Airways, Air Sahara and Air Deccan - will be allowed to operate to these destinations after getting due permission from the authorities.

Welcoming the decision an official spokesperson of Jet Airways said that while the airline had already filed the application with the authorities for operating to Sri Lanka, it would also examine the option of operating to Nepal and Bangladesh.

Jet plans to operate a daily service to Colombo from Chennai and offer a five-times-a-week connection to the Sri Lankan capital from both Mumbai and Bangalore.

Similarly, welcoming the decision, the Chief Executive Officer of Air Sahara, Mr U.K. Bose, said that apart from Sri Lanka the airline would probably look at operating to Nepal and Bangladesh.

"As regards Sri Lanka, the airline is in a position to start flights within a week. We will launch a daily service from Mumbai and Chennai and offer connections for passengers from different parts of the country," Mr Bose said.

The decision to allow private sector scheduled airlines was first mooted in the joint communiqué issued in October this year at the conclusion of the visit of the Sri Lankan Prime Minister. The communiqué "encouraged" scheduled private sector airlines to operate to airports in Sri Lanka.

Besides, the Cabinet also cleared a proposal to allow the designated airlines of the 10-member Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to operate daily flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai apart from operating flights to 18-other tourist destinations in the country.

The Cabinet also approved a proposal to allow the designated airlines of four ASEAN countries including Myanmar, Cambodia and Vietnam to pick up passengers from an intermediary point while operating to and from India.

Official sources said that Air India and Indian Airlines (IA) would be given reciprocal rights to operate to the ASEAN region.

The decision to allow designated airlines of the ASEAN region to operate a daily flight to Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai and Kolkata and 18-other tourist destinations was announced by Prime Minister, Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee, while attending the ASEAN summit in Indonesia in October .

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