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Air India changes stand on 5/20 rule to allow private airlines to fly abroad

National carrier Air India, marking a major shift in its stance, has dropped its resistance to abolish five years and 20 aircraft norms, also known as 5/20 rule, for Indian carriers to be able to fly abroad. Air India, which is struggling to return to profitability has conveyed to the government in a recent meeting that it will not oppose the ‘5/20 rule’ if it is abolished, a senior AI official said.

“We have not opposed the abolition of 5/20 rule. We have told the government we will support it in its policy decisions if it’s in the national interest,” said the official. According to the ‘5/20 rule’, all airlines in India are permitted to fly abroad only if it has five years of domestic flying experience and at least 20 aircraft in its fleet. The Union government has drafted a ‘civil aviation policy,’ that is yet to go to the Cabinet for its approval, in which it is evaluating abolishing the ‘5/20 rule’.

The industry is divided over the issue of ‘5/20 rule’. The private airlines which are allowed to fly abroad — IndiGo, Jet Airways, SpiceJet — have all opposed the proposal to abolish the rule as it will impact their market. However, the new airlines — Vistara and AirAsia India — are in favour of scrapping the decade-old rule which is restricting them to fly to international airports from India.