Tata criticizes older Indian airlines as competition heats up
Ratan Tata, Chairman Emeritus, Tata Sons has invested in a U.S –based medical emergency startup, MUrgency. Pictured: Ratan TataReuters

Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata Sons, through a tweet Sunday hit out at the established players in India's aviation sector, accusing them of attempting to monopolise the domestic market.

Tata Sons has significant interest in two relatively new entrants — Vistara and AirAsia India — that have entered the highly competitive domestic aviation market and have argued for rules for newcomers to be relaxed. While full-service airline Vistara is a joint venture between Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, discount carrier AirAsia India is owned partly by Tata Sons, AirAsia Investment and Telestra Tradeplace.

"In the airline industry in India it is sad to see the incumbent airlines lobbying for protection and preferential treatment for themselves against the new airlines which have been formed in full compliance with prevailing govt policy and providing air transport to Indian citizens in line with the dream of 'New India' promoted by the new government under Mr. Narendra Modi's leadership," Tata tweeted.

India's aviation market is one of the fastest growing markets in the world and established airlines have been lobbying extensively for the continuation of a rule that requires a domestic carrier to operate in the Indian market for at least five years and have a fleet size of a minimum of 20 aircraft before it can be eligible to start operating international routes. Executives from IndiGo, SpiceJet, Jet Airways and GoAir recently met Jitendra Singh, minister of state in the prime minister's office, to oppose rules governing foreign ownership of domestic airlines and the proposed changes to the five-year, 20-aircraft rule. Tony Fernandes, AirAsia group CEO, tweeted supporting Tata's call.

However, Ajay Singh, co-founder and chairman of SpiceJet, opposed Tata's views on the matter, according to the Economic Times.

"All of us were asked to serve our great country before we got profitable rights to fly abroad," Singh said. "What is wrong if these two foreign-controlled airlines are also asked to serve the nation before being allowed to fly international?"

Singh also told Daily News and Analysis: "It is also evident that these airlines are controlled by their foreign parents. This is in complete violation of Indian laws that require airlines in India to be effectively controlled by Indian shareholders. Mr. Tata should urge these airlines to follow Indian law in letter and spirit."

IndiGo declined to comment to International Business Times India about Tata's position.

"One hopes when the new policy is introduced, it will be free of discrimination and protectionism so that Indian aviation can grow for the benefit of consumer and the common man—and not to serve the interests of select beneficiaries of protectionism," Tata tweeted.