NEW DELHI: In a farewell ‘gift’ to Gulf carriers at the cost of desi airlines, the aviation ministry is set to grant Dubai additional flying rights of 10,000 seats a week — up almost 20% from the current capacity of 55,000 seats. Dubai-based Emirates, which is known as India’s de facto national airline due to its numero uno share in international traffic to and from the country (if Air India subsidiaries are not clubbed with AI), has for long been asking for more flying rights or bilaterals.
The inter-ministerial group on the issue will meet soon. Dubai has been asking for more bilaterals as the current entitlement on both sides has been fully used up. They were last given flying rights in 2008 and have been asking for an increase for a long time,” aviation minister Ajit Singh said. Dubai wanted a hike of at least 20,000 seats and is likely to get half of that.
Indian carriers have almost fully utilized their share of 55,000 seats too. This will be the second hike to Gulf carriers after the ministry’s largesse to Abu Dhabi last year. Emirates had linked flying the Airbus A380 to India to get more bilaterals. The airline had reasoned that it did not make sense to introduce the A380 here by reducing existing frequency of flights. The Dubai-based mega airline wanted its frequency of flights to stay and get an A380 over and above them
National carrier Air India is not in favour of giving more flying rights to the Gulf, especially Dubai as Emirates is giving it sleepless nights. AI was hoping that Emirates deploys its A380s by cutting frequency and then it would have added flights at the times vacated by Emirates.
The aviation ministry was criticized last year when it increased the weekly flying rights of Abu Dhabi nearly four times by allowing their airlines to add 36,670 seats over three years, taking the number to almost 50,000 from the then capacity of 13,000 seats per week.
Almost every Gulf state wants more bilaterals. Qatar wanted more too but the aviation ministry declined that request — which was backed by the PMO — on grounds that Indian carriers were not using even a quarter of their flying rights to Qatar.