‘Pity’ Says Emirates CEO As India Denies Additional Seats To Middle East Air Carriers

India does not have plans “as of now”; to provide additional seats to Middle East carriers, a top government official said on Tuesday even as leading Gulf carrier Emirates described not having enhanced bilateral flying rights as “pity”. Emirates, which operates only wide-body A380s and B777s, flies to nine Indian cities and operates 167 weekly flights to India. Currently, the airline and its group entity flydubai have bilateral rights to operate around 66,000 seats weekly to India.

India has an open skies policy with countries that are beyond India’s radius of 5,000 kilometres. To a query on bilateral flying rights, Civil Aviation Secretary Rajiv Bansal said Vietnam and Indonesia are asking for more frequencies. “This is reflective of Indians’ demand to visit these places,” he added.

According to him, all the Middle East carriers have been asking for additional seats for the last several years but “we have not been giving any additional seats to any Middle East carriers”. When asked whether the stance remains, Bansal said, “as of now, yes”.

Emirates Airline President Sir Tim Clark said it was a “pity” with respect to bilateral flying rights not being enhanced. They were speaking at the CAPA summit in the national capital.

During a media roundtable, Clark said Emirates has sought 50,000 additional seats under the bilateral rights. He also said that opportunities are great in India. India is one of the fastest growing aviation markets in the world.

Scindia said India was not looking at increasing air traffic quotas with Gulf states and instead wanted Indian carriers to offer non-stop long haul flights on larger planes. He said Air India’s widebody plane order and IndiGo’s twin-aisles to some destinations were signs that “transition” had begun.