With discussions on the Air Kerala project getting delayed due to lack of investor interest, a US-based aviation company is contemplating launching a new budget airline from Fujairah to various Indian cities.
N-Air International, the company behind the plans, currently operates chartered and cargo flights from the US to various destinations, especially the Caribbean.
Captain Rajan Nair, Chief Executive Officer of N-Air International, said his company is planning to launch a budget carrier from Fujairah in the UAE, with an initial plan to have flights five days a week to South Indian destinations, including Kochi.
Captain Nair, who hails from an Indian expatriate family in Abu Dhabi, said the proposed budget carrier will start with an Airbus A 320 aircraft and will gradually expand to add more flights and destinations.
As Emirates 24|7 reported earlier, the fate of the Air Kerala project, the proposed airline partly owned by the Kerala government, is in doubt as big investors from the Middle East have allegedly backtracked after India’s central government in New Delhi refused it permission to fly overseas before completing certain period of domestic operations.
An earlier proposal to start a budget carrier from the Middle East was allegedly torpedoed by influential NRIs. Captain Nair is starting afresh to launch the first budget carrier from Fujairah. While Air Kerala wants 20 aircraft to start operations, N-Air is confident of launching the service with just one or two aircraft.
Captain Nair claims he will be able to run the five-days-a-week schedule smoothly and more flights will be added later. As private carriers like Kingfisher have wound up operations due to financial problems, aviation analysts are keenly watching to see if Captain Nair’s aviation project will have a smooth operation.
“N-Air International LLC, a US company based in Florida, is a public charter company that operates passenger flights from cities in the USA to various destinations in the Caribbean. We are also in the process of starting passenger flights with an Airbus A-320 aircraft from UAE (Fujairah) to the southern cities in India,” Captain Nair told Emirates 24|7.
In a telephone interview from the US, he added: “The Indian operation is expected to begin in the month of June/July 2013. We have already got the aircraft and crew standing by and we are waiting for approval from the Director General of Civil Aviation. Fujairah Airport authorities have already told us that they would welcome us.”
Captain Nair is also the man behind a sea plane service project in Kerala, which is currently being discussed with the Kerala government. “By operating through Fujairah, N-Air will be able to serve tourists and business passengers from the US to the Middle East. Our ultimate objective is to bring international tourists to Fujairah and from there take them further to South Indian destinations which are quite popular on the global tourism map,” he said.
Fujiarah is emerging as a global hub for oil trade, thanks to the oil pipeline circumventing the Strait of Hormuz.
“The Indian cities on which we will primarily focus on at the outset are Kochi, Kozhikode, Vishakhapatnam and Madurai, with flights to and from Fujairah. We plan to market these flights to the expat population from these cities which flies home frequently and also carry huge amounts of excess baggage,” he said.
Captain Nair claimed that the budget carrier will be offering cheaper air fares and give additional baggage allowance to cost-conscious expatriate passengers from the UAE to India. N-Air officials have already discussed the project with the Fujairah Airport authorities and, according to him, they are keen to encourage a new budget airline that will cater to the Indian expatriate community in the northern emirates.
Captain Nair, who had left the UAE at an early age to pursue his civil aviation career, is thrilled to return to start a new budget carrier for Indian expatriate passengers. “My father used to be an active member and office bearer of the Kerala Social Centre in Abu Dhabi. I still have good memories of the UAE,” he said, adding that he will be interested in joining hands with the right investors for the budget carrier project.
Currently with CEN-Air International LLC, he was earlier working as CEO of Chalks International. The US FAAA-certified pilot with 18,000 hours of flying experience, 17,000 of them as pilot in command, is keen that the proposed airline will be an alternative to the Air Kerala project, which has not yet taken off due to lack of investor interest, especially from big NRI groups.
“I was personally assigned to fly many VIP passengers, including two US presidents, numerous US senators, the prime minister of the Bahamas, the ruling family of Saudi Arabia, and many other international dignitaries. But it is my pleasure to start a new airline for the Indian expatriate community,” adds Captain Nair.