In a controversial move, the civil aviation ministry will not allow foreign airlines to reach new destinations in India if they cannot offer corresponding fresh airports for Indian carriers to land.
Ministry officials have claimed this will protect Indian carriers from the fast expanding competition of international carriers, especially those from West Asia.
With the US and a few countries in Europe, we have an open-sky policy and there is nothing we can do there. But we have decided not to allow carriers, especially from single-destination countries, to expand further in terms of destinations, said a senior ministry official.
Airlines from single destination countries like Etihad, Emirates, Oman, Qatar and Singapore each fly to 10 to 12 destinations in India. Dubai based Emirates, for instance, offers 185 flights a week from 10 destinations in India, and plans to expand it by 6 more.
In a recent interview in Dubai, Emirates president Tim Clark said that they want to increase their presence by asking for number of seats to be doubled and access to at least five or six more destinations in India.
The civil aviation ministry, under Ajit Singh, has also decided not to get into further bilateral talks with any country till the quota available for Indian carriers are exhausted.
India has signed Air Services Agreements or bilaterals with over 109 countries and there are 8,34,000 weekly seats available on international air routes. The utilisation of bilateral rights by Indian carriers has increased to 40 per cent, from 23 per cent till the beginning of last year, after IndiGo, SpiceJet and Jet Airways have been allowed to start flights to new short-haul and long-haul international destinations.
International carriers, however, are still better placed in terms of utilisation of rights on routes to Dubai (99 per cent), Sharjah (93 per cent), Malaysia (86 per cent), Thailand (77 per cent), Singapore (72 per cent) and Malaysia (86 per cent).
Meanwhile, in recent bilateral talks with Oman after Indian carriers exhausted their quota, Oman Airs destination has been reduced.
Oman Air, which operated from 11 destinations earlier, has stopped operating from Kolkata. The destinations they operate from are Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kochi, Kozhikode, Lucknow, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram.
The Comptroller and Auditor General, in its report on Air India, has said that the liberal award of bilateral rights was one of the reasons for the national carriers decline and the government should renegotiate them.
Move to protect Indian carriers