In a major move to expand international air travel out of India, the Civil Aviation Ministry today approved traffic rights for the summer and winter season of 2013 in one go, granting new rights to Indian carriers to fly to several new destinations across the globe.
The new cities include Rome, Madrid, Barcelona, Sydney, Melbourne, Nairobi, Al Najaf (Iraq), Moscow, Zurich, Macau, Tashkent and Ho Chi Minh City.
Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh also directed holding of fresh bilateral negotiations to enhance air traffic rights with countries like those in the Gulf and Southeast Asia, with whom the existing rights have almost got exhausted, an official spokesperson said.
These countries include Singapore, Thailand, Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq, Macao and Afghanistan.
Air India and its no-frill subsidiary Air India Express have got their number of flights each week enhanced from 471 in 2012 summer to 650 in 2013 summer and from 577 in 2012 winter to 691 in the same season next year.
Air India has also got the rights for the first time to fly on sectors like Delhi-Rome-Madrid/Barcelona, Delhi-Moscow, Delhi-Sydney/Melbourne, Mumbai-Nairobi and Mumbai-Al Najaf.
Similarly, Jet Airways has been given the rights to operate on routes like Mumbai-Jakarta, Delhi-Barcelona, Mumbai-Zurich, Delhi-Tashkent and Mumbai-Ho Chi Minh City.
The number of its weekly flights have gone up from 417 in 2012 summer to 539 in 2013 and 497 this winter to 602 in 2013.
No-frill carriers IndiGo and SpiceJet have also got enhanced number of flights, with the latter being allowed to fly on Lucknow-Al Najaf, Varanasi-Al Najaf, Delhi-Macau and Delhi-Ho Chi Minh City.
While welcoming the move, industry sources it was an unprecedented measure as flight schedules for winter and summer seasons have so far been approved each year and not in one go.
The allocation of the new traffic rights would lead to a 58 per cent hike in the traffic entitlements of Indian airlines over the existing numbers.
The advance approval for the 2013 seasons would "help airlines to plan their schedules in time, get timely approvals and necessary clearances from authorities including those from destination countries," the spokesperson said, adding these allocations would give a major boost to Indian carriers and spur growth of the civil aviation sector.
As per the rights given for new destinations, Air India would start operating flights on Mumbai-Delhi-Shanghai, Delhi -Moscow, Ahmedabad-Delhi-Newark and Mumbai-Nairobi routes, among others.
IndiGo, which is not flying to Malaysia now, has been given the right to operate daily services to Kuala Lumpur from Delhi and Chennai from winter next year.
Jet Airways would operate new flights from Delhi to Paris, Delhi-Dusseldorf, Delhi-Frankfurt, Mumbai-Zurich, Delhi-Beijing, Mumbai-Sydney and Delhi-Tashkent from next winter season.
The spokesperson said the spurt in the number of international flights would enhance competitiveness among Indian and foreign carriers to the benefit of passengers.