Indian government's policy of allowing airlines to operate international flights only after completing five years of domestic operations was "bizarre" and was hurting Indian carriers, AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes has said.
"You can't fly abroad before five years and having 20 aircraft (fleet). That rule makes no sense. It is negative for the Indian airlines. I, as a one-plane operator in Malaysia, can fly to India but an Indian carrier with 20 planes cannot fly out. That's a disadvantage. India is the only country which has such a rule," he said.
Fernandes said he was not worried about the Jet-Etihad deal. "It's the way of the world. I am believer in free markets. Protectionism is dead."
Air India, he added, was an amazing opportunity if it had the right management and it deserved to "be in the hands of a private entrepreneur."
"See what new airlines in the region have done. India has lost because of vested interests even though it has a lot of talent and economic activities," he said.
Among the steps to be taken on "aggressive cost-cutting" would be ticketing through the internet, using Tata's retail shopping chain, introducing pre-paid cards on which air tickets can be purchased, apart from travel agencies.
His group, he said, would also enter India's insurance market through Tune Money, a Malaysian financial services company that offers insurance and loyalty card products.