Jun 06, 2012
In what could spoil expansion plans of carriers like Emirates and Qatar in India,
the aviation ministry is planning to slap a freeze on allowing more flights to these carriers
under the bilateral agreement. “Most of these carriers have already fully utilised their traffic
rights under the bilateral agreements, whereas our domestic carriers have not been able to
utilise even 50% of it. Why should we allow foreign airlines to increase more flights unless
our carriers are not benefitted,” Ajit Singh, civil aviation minister told Financial Express.
The Indian carriers including Air India, Jet Airways, Kingfisher and now the low-cost carriers
like SpiceJet and IndiGo which have recently added some flights to Middle East, utilise only
marginal traffic rights. The proposed freeze would be to bring parity between the flights
being flown by the foreign airlines and domestic airlines under a particular bilateral
agreement. For example, on Qatar route, Indian carriers utilise only 28% of the permitted flights. For
Dubai, they fly up to 62% of the allowed capacity.
In countries like Australia, Kenya, Turkey where the bilateral agreement allows domestic airlines to fly
upto 8,531, 5,600 and 5,600 seats, the carriers are flying none.On routes like Malaysia, China, the utilization
of bilateral traffic rights is 12% and 6%. While, the Indian carriers are struggling to increase their frequencies
internationally airlines such as Emirates, Qatar, Turkish have already requested the Indian aviation authorizes to
allow more flights.
Even a consultation paper released by the aviation ministry recommends that the foreign carriers' request
for further opening up access has to be limited until a point has reached where the Indian carriers have
fully utilised the underserved bilateral agreements, and/or have acquired the same access to the country
that is requesting the bilateral. Singh said, the decision would be taken based on the kind of traffic being flown
between the countries. “If we see that extending the bilateral would help Indian carriers expand their operations
and gain more traffic on a particular route, we would certainly consider it,” he said.