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Qatar Airways Urges Indian Government to Open Skies After Vote

Qatar Airways Ltd. Chief Executive Officer Akbar Al Baker said the airline’s expansion into India will depend on whether the government will further open the nation’s skies after elections due by May.

In January, India’s aviation ministry lifted a ban on Airbus Group NV’s A380 from entering the country and allowed airlines to fly the double-decker planes to four airports, including New Delhi and Mumbai. Authorities also approved a deal for Etihad Airways PJSC to purchase a 24 percent stake in Jet Airways India Ltd. as the country eased airline ownership rules last year. Opinion polls show the ruling Congress party losing power in the elections.

“Unfortunately the government regime does not allow free access to the Indian market,” Al Baker told reporters in Sharjah today. “Aviation is a very important tool of a country.”

Qatar Airways, which operates 13 destinations to India, still has room to increase existing routes, Al Baker said. The carrier also sees “huge potential” in serving the Iranian market and hoped authorities will allow them to expand the three destinations it already offers, he said.

The airline was offered the chance to buy a stake in Alitalia SpA several years ago that it turned down because it was “not in a position to make equity investments in foreign carriers,” Al Baker said. Etihad Airways is completing a study on Alitalia’s finances to make a decision on whether to buy a stake in the Italian carrier, Chief Executive Officer James Hogan and his Italian counterpart Gabriele Del Torchio said Feb. 2.

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