The battle for India in the West Asian aviation market is hotting up, with Qatar, Dubai and Sharjah asking for around 80,000 additional seats a week as part of their bilateral negotiations with India.
India yesterday announced a massive expansion in capacity between India and Abu Dhabi, within hours of Jet Airways announcing sale of 24 per cent stake to Abu Dhabi-based Etihad. And, an expanded bilateral agreement has already been signed with Oman. Now, if the government fully agrees with the demands of Qatar, Dubai and Sharjah, it would mean a doubling of India's seat capacity from the five West Asian hubs. At present, these hubs together account for about 25 per cent of India's total international passenger market.
On the other hand, domestic carriers have requested for around 20,000 additional seats for Doha, Dubai and Sharjah - only a fourth of what the West Asian carriers have demanded on the same routes. The bulk of this demand has come for Dubai -IndiGo, Air India, SpiceJet and Jet Airways together have asked for 15,000 more seats a week for this hub. (BILATERAL RIGHTS)
Analysts say the government's decision to enhance capacity between India and Abu Dhabi by 36,670 seats a week for a staggered period of three years will challenge the pre-eminence of Dubai as the largest West Asian hub for Indian passengers travelling to US and Europe. As much as 55 per cent of the Indian traffic to Dubai takes connections from there to other parts of the world; Emirates controls 12 per cent of the international passenger market. After the new agreement, however, Abu Dhabi will have an entitlement of 50,000 seats a week.
Dubai will also face a challenge from Doha, the hub for Qatar Airways, which is aggressively looking at Indian passengers for onward travel to the US and Europe. According to civil aviation ministry officials, Qatar has asked for a major increase in seat capacity - by 48,000 seats a week. After this move, if cleared, with 72,600 seats a week, Doha could emerge as an alternative hub to Dubai.
Even Sharjah (the hub for Air Arabia) has asked for its seat entitlement to be raised by 11,500 a week from 18,816 seats at present.
But Dubai, the 54,200-seat entitlement of which has been exhausted by Emirates and flydubai, too, is not going to give up easily. According to civil aviation ministry sources, it has asked for an additional 20,000-26,000 seats.
Airline industry sources say Emirates wants to fly A-380s, which have more seats, and operate in three new Indian cities of Jaipur, Amritsar and Pune, besides increasing flights from the 10 cities where it is present. On the other hand, flydubai has shown interest in flying beyond its present three destinations to Amritsar, Mangalore, Jaipur, Nagpur and Varanasi. According to a study done for Emirates, this would generate $363-million annual revenue for the sector and help carry 6.16 million passengers from both sides.