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The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) has cleared the proposal to let domestic private airlines like Jet Airways and Air Sahara fly to Asean destinations such as Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.

Not only will this be music to the ears of Jet and Sahara, but it's also good news for the air traveller, who will have more airlines to chose from, as capacity on these routes will rise significantly. Additionally, competition on these routes could also bring in better fares.

This, however, may not be good news to national carriers like Indian Airlines, as they may face a cut in their earnings on these routes, given the perception of better service from private airlines. According to official sources, the PMO's nod to the proposal came last week. The civil aviation ministry had sought the PMO's ratification on the issue, as the proposal was cleared by the NDA government, but was not implemented.

With the clearance in hand, the civil aviation ministry will soon come out with the necessary guidelines, while the private airlines will have to apply to the DGCA for clearance. Private airlines have been expecting this move for a while and have already put in their applications with the civil aviation ministry, sources said.

Both Jet and Sahara want to fly to Singapore, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur to begin with.
According to industry sources, both Jet and Sahara are already in the market, scouting for wide body planes.

While Sahara plans to acquire up to three aircraft a year for the next few years, Jet is in talks with both Boeing and Airbus for additions to its fleet.

As of now, the domestic private airlines already fly to Saarc destinations like Colombo and Kathmandu. Dhaka will soon be added to their route map. Besides, they are also preparing themselves for the opening up of the international skies. Once that happens, even Indian Airlines will put its hat in the ring to fly to destinations like London, Frankfurt and New York. But a decision to open up the international routes for private airlines is expected only by the year end.

The NDA government was all set to clear the proposal, but a few members of the Cabinet, including Arun Shourie, had objected to the proposal, citing security concerns, which led to the proposal being grounded.

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