India is unlikely to grant additional seats to foreign carriers, over and above the numbers agreed to under bilateral pacts, even though Indian expatriates in some of these countries are facing the prospect of having to pay sharply steeper airfares during the peak travel season this year following the grounding of Jet Airways.
It is reliably learnt that authorities in the UAE have written to the Indian government requesting additional capacity for its Dubai-based airlines Emirates and FlyDubai. Qatar Airways, too, announced last week that it had approached Indian authorities for more seats on high volume routes such as Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru on a temporary basis.
“These rights are earmarked for Indian carriers as per our bilateral agreements with various countries,” said Pradeep Singh Kharola, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, when asked if foreign carriers would be allocated extra traffic rights.
“Emirates made an offer to temporarily enhance capacity but I believe Civil Aviation Ministry will give preference to domestic carriers,” a senior official of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA), who declined to be identified, confirmed.
Government officials, however, are worried that the failure to ramp up capacity on routes to West Asia will impact not just tourists, but also Indian workers based there.
‘Low income expats’
“[It is] crucial to do it [raise capacity] before the holiday season because it really impacts low income expatriates,” the MEA official added.
For example, an economy airfare for a Mumbai-Dubai flight on May 18 had risen to as much as RS. 22,913 when booked 30 days before departure. This was about three times the fare that had been available for the same travel period last year, according to travel portal Yatra.com.