Zett Fly Aviation Private Limited, trading as Air Kerala (Kochi International), has received an initial no-objection certificate (NOC) from India's Ministry of Civil Aviation to operate regional commuter air transport services. The airline's current promotors confirmed the issuance during a July 8 media conference in Dubai.

Dubai-based Afi Ahmed, chairman of Zett Fly, told reporters that the start-up intended to acquire and operate three ATR72-600s from India's Kerala state.

"We plan to raise INR2.5 billion rupees [USD30 million] initially," he said. "We aim to launch a domestic carrier in Kerala in the first phase and later expand into an international airline serving the Gulf-Kerala sector at affordable fares. We plan to connect Tier 2 and Tier 3 cities with Tier 1 and metro airports, which will help improve accessibility and convenience for travellers across these regions. Our next steps involve acquiring aircraft and complying with the regulatory requirements to obtain our AOC."

Current promotors include Ahmed and Ayub Kallada, Ahmed being chairman of the travel company Smart Travels and paying USD272,250 to buy the AirKerala domain name last year. Dubai-based Kallada is chairman and managing director of Kallada Food Industries. "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," said Ahmed.

Air Kerala has been on the drawing board for two decades. First floated in 2005 by the Kerala state government using a public-private partnership model, in 2012, ch-aviation reported that a group of UAE-based investors had plans to start Air Kerala (2012) and target labour traffic between Kerala and the Gulf countries. In 2015, a scaled-back plan for Air Kerala was publicly mooted, with the start-up reportedly in the process of securing a 15-seater aircraft with plans to open up flights from Kochi to Thiruvananthapuram and Kozhikode. However, this proposal also never came to fruition.