Tuesday, November 05, 2019

More flights for Saudi Arabia as govt hikes seat quota by 78% to 50,000

Mumbai: India and Saudi Arabia have revised air services agreement enabling an increase in flights between the two countries. The weekly seat quota for carriers of two countries has been increased from 28,000 to 50,000 as a part of the MOU signed in Riyadh last week. The increase in seats will take place in a phased manner. In first instalment it will rise to 36,000 and will subsequently increase upon utilisation from both sides, aviation sources aware of the development said.

While India has turned down demands from West Asian states including Qatar and UAE for an increase in seats (last month government said no to UAE proposal for more flights), it made an exception in case of Saudi Arabia. While Indo-Saudi relations are on an upswing with co-operation in various areas, Indian carriers too did not oppose the proposal to hike the quota. This is because of the nature of air traffic between the two countries. There is limited onward traffic over Saudi Arabia. Most of the passenger flow is point-to-point. This is not the case with airports like Abu Dhabi, Dubai, Doha or Muscat which serve as hubs for Indians travelling to Africa, Europe and the US.

The increase in seat entitlement will also help airlines from both countries to grow their traffic and improve loads. Currently, around 30 per cent of passenger traffic between India and Saudi Arabia travel via other Gulf hubs and an increase in seats will help Indian and Saudi airlines to grow their market share on the route.
A civil aviation ministry spokesperson did not respond to an email query on the topic.

Among the Indian carriers Air India, Air India Express, IndiGo and SpiceJet operate flights to Saudi Arabia while Saudi Arabian Airlines and Flynas are two carriers operating into India. Flynas added three routes - Riyadh-Lucknow, Dammam-Lucknow and Riyadh-Kozhikode last month. Around 5 million passengers flew between the two countries in 2018 and the market has not seen growth because of the closure of Jet Airways.
05/11/19 Aneesh Phadnis/Business Standard

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