Sunday, February 28, 2016

Indian carriers wary on plans to liberalise and auction bilateral flying rights

 Indian airlines are fiercely debating proposed policy changes which they fear could result in Arabian Gulf carriers being given an unfair advantage to expand in the country.

The areas of India’s draft ­civil aviation policy which have raised concerns include plans to liberalise and auction bilat­eral flying rights and raise the cap on foreign direct investment in Indian carriers, which is currently restricted to 49 per cent.

Gulf airlines, including Emirates, flydubai and Air Arabia, have been very vocal in the past about the fact that they are being held back from expanding in India because of limitations on seats and have called for bilat­eral rights to be relaxed.

But they have opted not to wade into the fresh debate so far.

“India is an important market for flydubai and we work within the bilateral agreement discussed at a government level,” flydubai simply said in statement, without expanding further.

Ghaith El Ghaith, the chief executive of flydubai, speaking last year at the Arabian Travel Market in Dubai, highlighted that the carrier could “double in size” if India had a “more liberal approach”.

“All Indian carriers are deeply worried about the bilateral rights given to Gulf carriers,” said Satish Modh, who has a background in the aviation sector and is now the director of the VES Institute of Management Studies and Research in Mumbai.

The Federation of Indian Airlines (FIA), a lobbying group which represents a few major Indian carriers, is opposing the proposal in the draft aviation policy to auction bilateral rights, India’s Business Standard newspaper reported last week.
27/02/16 Rebecca Bundhun/The National