It looks like a battle of wits. Foreign airlines are clamouring for more seat entitlements from and to India, even as domestic carriers have finally got permission to raise capacities in select international sectors. With international traffic from India growing, the two sets of airlines are clamouring for more seats, but the government, it appears, is not obliging everyone.
Officials in the ministry of civil aviation acknowledged that requests are pending from countries such as Qatar, UAE, Singapore and Germany for increased seats and new destinations within India. Emirates, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Lufthansa are seeking increased business from India.
“The UAE wants a fresh bilateral with more seats and destinations from India. Currently, Emirates is allowed 54,000 seats a week. Qatar’s current entitlement is 23,000 a week. Singapore Airlines, Qatar and Emirates - all want more seats from and to India. Lufthansa wants to bring in the A380 and this obviously means more seat entitlements. But we are studying each request carefully. Since 2009, only about 7000-8000 new seats have been allowed and these were offered to Qatar Airways - they have failed to use even these. Instead of concentrating on allowing more seats to foreign airlines, we want Indian carriers to also increase their share in the international air traffic pie,” the officials said.
They pointed out that among domestic airlines, permission has been granted to Kingfisher and IndiGO to operate flights to Colombo from destinations other than Chennai - the Chennai-Colombo route is already being serviced by Air India and SpiceJet. In addition, Jet Airways has been allowed the Bombay-Rome route (apart from its daily service to Milan) and another service between Bombay and Amsterdam - this route has no flights by any Indian airline as of now.
Also, IndiGo has been awarded permission to go to Singapore - a route where full-service carriers Air India, Jet Airways and Kingfisher are already operational.
So how will this help Indian carriers with overseas ambitions? The officials said that there should be a 10% increase in international flights by Indian carriers in the coming months. Indian airlines presently account for four of every ten international flights to and from India.