• Wednesday, July 24, 2024


Boost for low-cost airline Air Kerala from Dubai businessmen

The carrier has taken a significant step forward by securing its initial no-objection certificate from India’s civil aviation ministry recently.

Representational Image (iStock)

By: Shubham Ghosh

INDIAN expatriates may soon find affordable options to fly back home, as progress toward launching a low-cost airline gains momentum. Two Dubai-based businessmen are driving the initiative, and Air Kerala has taken a significant step forward by securing its initial no-objection certificate (NOC) from India’s civil aviation ministry recently. The development was confirmed during a press conference held in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates.

According to a copy of the NOC reviewed by Khaleej Times, the airline, registered under the name Zettfly Aviation, has been granted permission to operate scheduled commuter air transport services for a period of three years.

The operations may be launched in 2025.

Conceived by UAE entrepreneurs Afi Ahmed and Ayub Kallada, Air Kerala aims to become the inaugural regional airline representing India’s southernmost state of Kerala.

Read: Future of India-UAE economic ties banks on manufacturing in Gulf state: executive

“This is the result of years of our hard work,” Ahmed was quoted as saying by Khaleej Times.

“My partners and I have been working tirelessly to make this a reality. Several people questioned us and dismissed it, saying it would never become a reality. We still have a long way to go but the NOC is a big step for us.”

Read: India foreign minister meets UAE counterpart, reviews ‘multi-faceted’ ties

In 2023, Ahmed, founder of UAE-based agency Smart Travel, made headlines by purchasing the domain name airkerala.com from a local company for a substantial Dh1 million. Initially searching for an aggregator website, Ahmed stumbled upon the domain and decided to acquire it. This move reignited efforts for Air Kerala, a project originally proposed by the government of Kerala nearly two decades ago.

With the NOC in possession now, the airline must undergo several months of groundwork before it can commence its flights.

Speaking with Khaleej Times on the matter, Kallada said their next move involves acquiring planes and complying with the required regulatory norms to get their Air Operator’s Certificate.

“This is a critical phase that ensures we meet all safety and operational standards set by the aviation authorities,” he was quoted as saying.

The duo said the airline will soon start its procedure for acquiring aircraft and that they aim to begin operations with three ATR 72-600 planes.

“We are currently exploring options in both the leasing market and direct procurement from manufacturers to ensure we have the best possible fleet for our operations,” Afi told the news outlet.

Once the aircraft are acquired, Air Kerala will have to establish regional operations before progressing to international flights. Kallada said their initial operations will focus on regional connectivity and they aim to connect Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities with Tier 1 and metro airports.

“This will help us improve accessibility and convenience for travelers across these regions,” he said.

International flights are part of the airline’s long-term strategy. Afi revealed that they will start exploring international routes to broaden their reach and service offerings once the fleet has 20 aircraft.

The initial investment required for the project amounts to approximately Dh110 million, he added.

Air Kerala, which is headquartered in the city of Kochi in the Indian state, also aims to promote tourism and trade in the southern state besides generating at least 350 jobs. Afi said once the international operations begin, job opportunities will open in the UAE. Saying the international operation will provide affordable travel opportunities for all expats, Afi added that Dubai will be one of the airline’s first international destinations.

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