Air India’s regional unit Alliance Air has been granted “special dispensation” by the Indian government to operate between India and Sri Lanka.
A notice from the civil aviation ministry states that the exemption would stay in place until the carrier has a minimum of 20 aircraft, or has about 20% share of domestic capacity, whichever is higher.
Under Indian civil aviation laws, an airline can only fly international routes once it has at least 20 aircraft. The carrier has 19 aircraft in its fleet currently – one ATR 42-300, and 18 ATR 72-600s.
While the ministry notice did not indicate which routes Alliance Air would be operating, it names two airports which do not have scheduled operations: Palaly airport, also known as Jaffna International Airport, as well as Batticaloa airport.
Cabinet minister Prakash Javadekar was quoted in Indian media reports as saying that Alliance Air would be given subsidies for operating the routes.
He also justified the operation of such routes, noting that there was many Tamils in Sri Lanka, and that “people should be getting connectivity”.
“Both countries welcome this decision,” Javedekar was reported as saying.
The ministry notice echoes a similar point: “India has close bilateral ties with Sri Lanka and our interest is to increase connectivity and to expand people to people contacts between the two countries.”
Cirium schedules data shows that Alliance Air, which is wholly-owned by Air India, flies to 59 domestic points.