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Rediff.com  » Business » Aviation ministry rules out more flights from Qatar

Aviation ministry rules out more flights from Qatar

Last updated on: December 13, 2013 11:19 IST

A view of Doha, QatarThe country has nearly exhausted its entitled capacity, while Indian carriers are using only around 6,000 seats a week

The ministry of civil aviation has disagreed with a proposal of the Prime Minister’s Office to explore raising the cap on the number of weekly flights from Qatar in exchange for discounts on additional supplies of liquefied natural gas from there.

A senior aviation ministry official said, “Indian carriers are currently utilising a fourth of the capacity available between India and Qatar.

“Given that, we would not want to enhance bilateral traffic rights between the countries at this point of time.”

Qatar has nearly exhausted the entitled capacity, while Indian carriers are utilising only around 6,000 seats a week.

Sources said the government was keen on enhancing air traffic bilateral rights, as Qatar has promised investments of up to $3 billion a year in India.

“If, in wisdom of national interest, we are specifically asked to increase seat entitlements to Qatar, we would have to. But we do not plan anything like that as of now,” added the official.

The Qatar government has been asking for an expansion of weekly capacity to 72,600 seats, against the available 24,800, to create a hub for West-bound international traffic out of India.

Most international traffic out of India flies West via the hub in Dubai.

While Emirates has entitlements to fly out 54,000 seats a week, the Indian government recently allowed a staggered increase of capacity to UAE (Abu Dhabi) to 50,000 seats a week by 2015.

In October, the PMO had called a meeting of officials from the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Ministry of Petroleum and Natural Gas, Ministry of External Affairs and Department of Industrial Policy and Promotion.

It has asked the aviation ministry to work out specifics on how many additional seats can be allocated to Qatar.

Discussion over increasing the bilateral rights to Qatar has comes on the heels of India agreeing to allocate an additional 36,670 seats a week to Abu Dhabi over three years. UAE is said to have promised investments of $50 billion in the country’s infrastructure sectors over the next few years.

The decision was aided by the fact that capacity utilisation of Indian carriers prior to the allocation of increased bilateral rights to UAE stood at around 90 per cent, said ministry officials.

The enhancement of bilateral rights had, however, raised a storm as several political leaders had opposed the moved, contending an adverse impact on operations of Indian airlines and airport operators.

Image: A view of Doha, Qatar; Photograph: Courtesy, Wikipedia Commons

Sharmistha Mukherjee in New Delhi
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