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Monday, 06 April, 2015, 14 : 00 PM [IST]

India open to signing first air service bilateral pact with Qatar: Civil Aviation Ministry

According to a report by Mihir Mishra for The Economic Times, India is open to signing its first air service bilateral agreement with Qatar if the Arab nation seeks an increase in existing seat entitlements. The Union Civil Aviation Ministry communicated this view, in Prime Minister Narendra Modi's presence, to a delegation led by Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, Emir of Qatar. Qatar has the third-largest natural gas reserves in the world and is among the most influential Arab nations.

"Bilaterals with any country should only be increased, if our carrier wants it," said a senior Civil Aviation Ministry official.

Indian carriers are, however, not very enthusiastic about increasing seat entitlements. Gulf carriers depend heavily on the Indian market to enlist passengers to feed routes to Europe and North America. "In the case of Qatar, our carriers do not want any increase. We have told them that the requests from Qatar could be looked into in case they put in a request, but our carriers do not want any increase," the official added.

Qatar, meanwhile, has also shown interest in buying a stake in IndiGo. Qatar had earlier sought an increase in weekly seat entitlements to 50,000 from 24,292, but without success.

Indian carriers utilise only 10,000 weekly seats, whereas Qatar utilises as much as 22,000 weekly seats from India, and is therefore keen to raise the limit. Qatar Airways vies aggressively in the Indian subcontinent with Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways and Dubai's Emirates for Indian passengers. Indian aviation industry executives are against any increase in bilaterals between Qatar and India.

"There is no need to increase bilateral entitlements with any country. Any increase in weekly seats is like giving foreign carriers access to the Indian market, and it surely goes against our carriers," said an airline official.

According to government data, domestic carriers Air India, Jet Airways, SpiceJet, and IndiGo offer 44 per cent fewer seats than their foreign peers on overseas routes.

Data on foreign bilateral utilisation compiled by the Civil Aviation Ministry show that the foreign carriers offer 432,456 seats a week to Indian passengers, compared to 242,365 seats offered by Indian carriers. (Source: The Economic Times)
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