Jet-Mallya asks AI to join alliance

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Hyderabad, Oct 15 (UNI) Top private carriers Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines, which have recently entered into an alliance, today invited state-owned Air India to join them in a bid to reverse the downturn in the aviation sector.

''Everybody is welcome to join the operational alliance, including Air India,'' Kingfisher owner Vijay Mallya told reporters on the sidelines of the India Aviation airshow.

Both Mr Mallya and Jet Airways promoter Vijay Goyal exuded confidence that their alliance would help them save around Rs 1,500 crore.

''It is the first time that such an alliance has taken place in India...It is not a marriage of convenience,'' Mr Goyal said.

To a question on the possible Jet-Kingfisher merger, Mr Mallya said there were no plans for equity sharing.

''There is no equity swap. Our understanding is for purely commercial alliance,'' he said.

Justifying the alliance, Mr Goyal said in the absence of a regulator, the international airlines were dumping capacity in India and lowering their prices.

''Besides, we are operating between 60-70 per cent capacity against the break-even point of 90 per cent...So we have to work together.'' He said mergers were taking place in every industry, be in telecom, insurance, hotels and automobiles. ''You cannot escape it.'' About Jet retrenching up to 850 employee in the wake of the merger, Mr Goyal said they were probationers. ''Our idea is not to get rid of (permanent) staff.'' UNI YJ SBA AS1537

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