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Last Updated On: 10/11/2012

If all goes well, Air Kerala will take to the skies this coming Vishu on April 14, 2013.

The new airline is the initiative of the South Indian state of Kerala whose people celebrate Vishu as their new year's day.

"The only question is whether the first flight will be an international or domestic one. Next month, we will be applying to the director general of civil aviation with the preliminary capital of Rs. 100 crore, which we will raise by then," the state's Chief Minister Oommen Chandy told Indian news media.

Indian businessmen from Kerala are also said to be keen on investing in the Air Kerala initiative.

The state government plans to launch Air Kerala with five leased aircraft initially.

Chandy says Air Kerala will sign a contract with Air India to use its hangar at the Thiruvananthapuram airport.

The hangar can accommodate B 737-800 aircraft.

Hundreds of thousands of Indian workers from Kerala are employed in the Middle East and their monthly remittances home keeps the state's economy humming.

These workers from Kerala have made no secret of their unhappiness over "unjustified fare hikes" and "irregular services" of Air India, the struggling carrier owned by the government of India.

Air Kerala - Questions Remain

Although the enthusiasm of the Kerala government runs high on the new airline, several questions need to be addressed before Air Kerala can take to the skies.

Indian civil aviation rules do not permit an airline to operate international flights until it has  completed five years of domestic service.

Another requirement for an airline to operate international flights is that it must have at least 20 aircraft in its fleet.

It's not clear whether the Kerala Government can convince the central government in Delhi to  waive the rules for Air Kerala.

Further, Air Kerala will inevitably end up competing with Air India. Surely, the bureaucrats in India's civil aviaion ministry won't be too pleased with that certainty.

India's Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh has already declined to waive the rules for Air Kerala.

Commercial viability of the proposed airline is another challenge the state has to thoroughly assess before launching Air Kerala.

With high fuel prices, severe competition and a depressed global economy, these are challenging times for the Indian aviation industry.

Two Indian carriers are already in dire shape - Kingfisher Airlines is on its last legs and Air India has been struggling financially for years.

Although considerable uncertainty remains whether Air Kerala will be allowed to operate international flights, for tens of thousands of Malayalees working in the Gulf region and the state government in Thiruvananthapuram it can't come soon enough.


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