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Air traffic talks likely with neighbours

Disha Kanwar  |  New Delhi 

With the civil aviation ministry granting 60 per cent more traffic rights to Indian air carriers on international skies, it is likely to engage in fresh bilateral negotiations with the governments of Oman, Macau and Afghanistan for enhancement of traffic rights. Bilateral traffic rights define the number of weekly flights or seats a country’s designated airlines are allowed to operate in another country’s specified points. Both countries can seek more numbers of services or seats in a week or more places to fly to, through enhancement of traffic rights.

In an interview with Business Standard, Ajit Singh, the minister, had said, “We would explore possibilities of enhancing additional traffic rights with those countries with whom existing rights have almost got exhausted from both sides.” The government had imposed a freeze on private carriers expanding abroad in March last year.

According to ministry data, this winter season will see Indian carriers utilising 42 per cent of the quota of seats allowed under bilateral traffic rights with various countries or 377,724 seats per week, compared with about 20 per cent utilisation in the year-ago season.

“Right now, there are no services between India and Macao but with SpiceJet getting permission to fly there, we will be seeking more traffic rights. The air service agreement permits two services per week,” confirmed a senior ministry official.

Singh said, “As far as Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Saudi Arabia are concerned, India is nearing completion of utilisation of bilateral rights but the other country has yet to do. For the rest of the countries, fresh bilateral negotiations for enhancement of traffic rights will take time.”

With Singapore, it will also take some time for talks on more traffic rights as ailing Kingfisher Airlines still has about 5,000 seats unutilised. “We will see if these unutilised traffic slots stay with us and then we will think ahead,” Singh had added. With a 60 per cent increase in traffic rights, the total number of weekly services from Indian carriers would rise from 1,074 now to 1,695 in the winter schedule of 2013.

Explaining why the ministry had started granting rights for the next three seasons, Singh added, “If an airline goes to these neighbouring countries, it would take one to three months to set operations but if you go to relatively far off countries like China, Vietnam, etc, it takes more time.”

First Published: Mon, November 19 2012. 00:10 IST