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India resists allowing Gulf carriers to increase air traffic to its cities

Blazer, Clothing, Coat Reuters/Abdel Hadi Ramahi
Emirates president Tim Clark said there would still be a need for Gulf carriers in India, given how strong demand is
  • Emirates president is keen to resolve bilateral flying rights
  • Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways wants to double capacity to India
  • India intent on recapturing traffic lost to foreign carriers

India is resisting calls from both Dubai and Kuwait to increase their national airlines’ flights to the subcontinent’s fast-growing aviation market.

The country wants its own domestic airlines to offer non-stop long haul flights rather than increasing air traffic from Emirates and Jazeera Airways, its civil aviation minister Jyotiraditya Scindia told Reuters on Tuesday.

“The minute you give direct connectivity to international locations directly from Delhi, any passenger is going to prefer a direct connect, rather than going through another country’s hub,” he said.

The UAE has urged India to increase the maximum number of seats between the two countries by 50,000 a week (from about 65,000 a week) today. Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways also wants to double its weekly air traffic to India.

Speaking at the Capa India Aviation Summit on Tuesday, Emirates president Tim Clark said there would still be a need for Gulf carriers in India, given how strong demand is. He said he was hopeful that the governments of India and the UAE would resolve the situation.

Emirates operates only wide-body A380s and B777s and flies to nine Indian cities and operates 167 weekly flights to the Asian country. 

Kuwait’s Jazeera Airways chief executive Rohit Ramachandran echoed Emirates’ request for more access to India.

He told the Capa summit that the current weekly allowance of 12,000 was inadequate to reflect current economic trends. Kuwait has asked for the cap to be raised to 28,000 seats.

Demand for air travel is outstripping the supply of planes in India.

The bulk of the country’s international air traffic is currently carried by Gulf airlines such as Emirates and Qatar Airways, powered by efficient hubs like Dubai and Doha.

But the Indian government wants to recapture traffic lost to foreign carriers and is pushing airlines to order more widebody planes to meet demand.

Air India last month placed a record order for 470 jets and is making an aggressive push in the international market by offering passengers non-stop flights to long-haul destinations in the US.

India is mobilising to handle the transportation needs of its 1.3 billion population of by building new airports in the country’s remotest parts and expanding capacity at airports like Delhi and Mumbai.

Scindia said Air India’s widebody plane order and IndiGo’s plans to fly twin-aisle planes were signs that the “transition” has begun.

“We are going to see an explosion of air traffic in India in the years to come,” said the minister. He said he also saw more scope for aerospace manufacturing in the country and that companies are eager to produce more locally. 

Mohammed Sarhan, vice president for India and Nepal at Emirates, told state-run Press Trust of India news outlet he believed the Indian aviation market is “large enough to accommodate all players profitably”.

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