Paramount plans regional partnerships

With an estimated investment of $900 million (Dh3.3 billion), which includes acquiring 10 Airbus aircraft for its global foray, India's Paramount Airways is all set for a tie-up with Middle East airlines.

The carrier, boasting an all-business-class fleet, is a privately held Indian company, and recently announced plans to start flights to Gulf.

"Paramount Airways would be looking to enter the Gulf and other international routes all alone. [However], we are in talks for interline and frequent flier tie-ups with other airlines in the region [Gulf]," Managing Director M Thiagarajan told Emirates Business.

He said while flights between India and Dubai will start somewhere between October and December this year, the company also has plans to start services from India to other Gulf destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Doha.

Thiagarajan, 30, considered to be the world's youngest airline CEO, had signed a deal at the Paris Air Show, which was held mid-last year, with European plane maker Airbus to buy 10 A321 passenger jets with an option to buy 10 more.

While each aircraft carries a price tag of around $90m, industry analysts who tracked the deal said Airbus may have offered some discounts.

Sources said a well-known European bank had funded the deal between Airbus and Paramount.

Airbus will deliver the first of these 10 aircraft to the carrier in the fourth quarter of 2010, around the same time when Paramount Airways is all set to enter the global market.

Paramount said Airbus aircraft would be used for its foray into Gulf and other destinations such as Mauritius, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong and Sri Lanka.

When asked if the company was looking for any private equity placement to fund its international foray, Thiagarajan said: "The company is not looking for any private equity placements and is adequately funded by the promoter group."

With travellers increasingly turning to budget airlines downturn, Paramount remains convinced it would be able to grow through its present premium model.

The airline, positioned as a premium one, does not offer economy-class configuration in any of its aircraft. The company would be replicating the same business model in its international flights with Airbus A321 in the fleet network.

This particular aircraft – fitted with all business-class seats – can accommodate around 140-160 seats.

"Paramount is the market leader in south India and has distinguished itself as a premier airline offering great value for money and thrives on customer delight. Paramount would certainly seek to emerge as a dominant player in the Gulf in the years to come. This would be further strengthened by strategic local partnerships such as codeshares," said Thiagarajan, while explaining the airline's positioning.

The Indian aviation sector has been passing through turbulent times since 2008.

However, the latest data released by the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation in February said that three out of four seats were occupied in February.

 

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