In a move that could help foreign and Indian carriers get additional traffic rights, the civil aviation ministry will hold fresh bilateral talks with eight countries, including Singapore, Thailand, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq, Macau and Afghanistan. “The increase in the number of international flights will enhance competitiveness among airlines and is expected to bring down fares, benefitting passengers,” said an official statement issued by the civil aviation ministry on Friday.
“The negotiations would be to explore possibilities of enhancing additional traffic rights with those countries with whom existing traffic rights have almost got exhausted,” it said.
Some of the new routes that the national carrier Air India would be flying would include: Rome-Madrid/Barcelona; Moscow; Sydney/Melbourne; Nairobi; and Al Najaf (Iraq). Private carrier Jet Airways would add Jakarta, Barcelona, Zurich, Tashkent and Ho Chi Minh City to its international network.
The talks are expected to benefit several foreign airlines, including Emirates, which has been requesting the civil aviation ministry to extend the bilateral limits for several months now. The move may also benefit most of the domestic carriers which are looking at increasing their frequencies on short-haul international routes.
However, Indian carriers including Air India, Jet Airways, IndiGo and SpiceJet have seen far lower utilisation of the bilateral traffic rights compared to their international counterparts. According to the last year's data, the domestic airlines were able to utilise only 47% on the route to Sharjah, 55% in Dubai and 91% in Oman as compared to international carriers which were utilised 93%, 99%and 100% on the same routes, respectively. In case of Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Hong Kong sectors, international carriers were utilising 86% , 72%, 77% and 59%, respectively, while the Indian carriers saw occupancy of 12%, 55%, 39% and 59% of seats on these routes.
According to aviation ministry officials, the gap has been bridged by the entry of domestic low-cost carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet, which are expanding their short-haul international network.
The ministry has approved Indian carriers’ plans to have 1,695 services per week up to the winter of 2013 – almost 58% more than 1,074 services per week from the summer of 2012.