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Emirates keeps an eye on AI disinvestment

Ashwini Phadnis

NEW DELHI, Sept. 25

DUBAI-based Emirates Airlines has said that it may be interested in the Air India (AI) disinvestment process if there is transparency in the manner in which it is conducted.

``Whether it is disinvestment of AI or any other business deal, as long as there is transparency, the deal creates synergy between the disinvested entity and the airlines. Emirates will have a look at anything, especially if it helps both parties,'' the airlines General Manager, India and Nepal, Mr Nabil Sultan, told Business Line.

Emirates was one of the airlines which had responded to the initial expression of interest (EoI) offers made by the Government for AI. However, it later dropped out of the race.

The airline official felt that the present situation of AI disinvestment was not due to ``any mistake made by the Indian Government.'' Mr Sultan said that as and when airlines see ``positive business proposals'' they will queue up to pick up a stake in A I.

Expressing what he called his personal opinion, Mr Sultan felt that India does not have to look beyond its shores for a suitor for AI. ``There is proof in India of a domestic airline operator setting up a world-class airline. Why do you have to look abro ad?'' Mr Sultan asked.

Commenting on the reported rejection of the bid of an Emirates subsidiary, Dnata, for taking up ground handling at select Indian airports, Mr Sultan said that the airline had not yet received any official word on the issue.

``Emirates is very clear in its focus and only looks at commercially viable projects. There has been no setback to our operations in India. The allegations that Dnata has employed retired Pakistani military officials is untrue,'' Mr Sultan said.

Talking about the airlines' plans for India, Mr Sultan said that Emirates has not yet firmed up plans of operating to Kochi next year.

``We are still in discussion with the Indian authorities to get traffic and seats into the region. But we are very interested to operate to Kochi,'' Mr Sultan said. He added that there was tremendous potential to operate services between Bangalore and Th iruvananthapuram and Dubai.

On the issue of Emirates lowering fares on the India-Dubai sector recently, Mr Sultan denied that this was due to over-capacity on the sector.

``We are in the low season which will extend till end October-November. There is no question of over-capacity and we are ready to operate as many additional flights as we are allowed to,'' Mr Sultan said.

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