Gopinath plans to launch new Indian low-cost carrier

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Indian aviation veteran GR Gopinath is planning to start a new low-cost carrier in India that could commence operations in 2014.

The founder of low-cost carrier Air Deccan, which merged with Kingfisher Airlines in 2008, told Flightglobal that he has been in discussions with investors to launch a new airline once his non-compete clause with Kingfisher expires in late January 2013.

"We have been talking for the last two months since the government changed its policy, after that, a few people approached us," he says, referring to changes made in September, which allow a foreign airline to own up to 49% of an Indian carrier.

He declined to name the possible investors that he has been in talks with, but there are indications that one partner may be AirAsia, as it has shown an interest in establishing operations in India in recent months.

When asked about what sort of aircraft the new carrier would operate, he would only say that it would depend on the partners selected for the venture.

Plans for the airline will be finalised in the next two or three months, he adds, with operations to commence in 2014.

Gopinath says he sees a vacuum in the low-fare end of the Indian market as airlines have not been growing new routes.

"India needs a new low-cost airline to stimulate the market and open up new routes, rather than just cannibalising existing airlines," he says.

Gopinath founded Air Deccan in 2003 and later, merged it with Kingfisher. The carrier, which suffered financial difficulties for years, ceased operations in October. It is understood to be working on a turnaround plan to allow it to restart services in the near future.

Kingfisher recently said in a stock exchange filing that it is in talks with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, which is understood to be interested in taking up to a 48% stake in the Indian airline.

Media speculation in India claims that Etihad has also been involved in negotiations to buy a stake in Jet Airways.