With Gulf carriers garnering a significant chunk of outbound passenger traffic from India, the government is mulling ways to put in place mechanisms to prevent overseas airlines from virtually making local airports their regional hubs.
The basic idea is to ensure that domestic airlines have a competitive as well as level playing field with their foreign counterparts, especially since Indian aviation market has a huge growth potential, according to a senior Civil Aviation Ministry official. Etihad, Emirates, Qatar Airways, Air Arabia, and Flydubai are among the major Gulf carries having operations in India.
Of these, while Doha-based Qatar Airways flies to 13 Indian cities, Emirates flies to 10 key airports via its Abu Dubai hub. Etihad, which holds 24 per cent stake in domestic carrier Jet Airways, also connects its Abu Dhabi hub with 10 cities here including Delhi and Mumbai.
With the revised draft civil aviation policy in advanced stages of finalisation, the Ministry is also looking at ways to address various issues pertaining to the local carriers. An option being considered is restricting the port of calls allowed for overseas airlines in India as such a system would ensure that “regional hubs” are not created by them within the country, the official said.
In recent years, Gulf carriers have received a fillip as they fly a large number of outbound passengers from India by way of smartly utilising their bilateral rights and providing increased connectivity to different parts of the world from various Indian citites. According to the official, some overseas carriers keep pitching for more seats as well as landing points but allowing their requests could also hurt the growth prospects of local players.
Apart from restricting the number of landing points, various other ways are being looked into, the official noted. India has the potential to be among the global top three nations in terms of domestic and international passenger traffic but the country’s aviation sector is currently ranked 10th in the world, as per the draft civil aviation policy.