SpiceJet Chairman Ajay Singh and UAE Ambassador Ahmed DR Albanna found themselves on two opposing sides during an industry webinar on July 8. Singh, who spoke first, pointed out that Indian carriers had only 5 percent share in international flight traffic coming in and going out of India. Albanna said, while over 500 flights are operated by Indian carriers, the share of UAE airlines was lower, at about 400 flights a week.
“About 95 percent of the traffic share is with international carriers. If we need to build Delhi and Mumbai hubs, then we need to have Indian carriers having more share,” said the SpiceJet top executive.
He made his point even as he noted that he is airing the opinion in the presence of the UAE ambassador. Emirates and Etihad, based in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, respectively, operate flights to and from India.
Singh was speaking in a webinar hosted by PHD Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
The ambassador surely noted what Singh had to say, and took on the issue when it was his turn to speak.
While agreeing that Delhi and Mumbai should be developed as aviation hubs and that the UAE will do everything possible to make that possible, Albanna noted that this should be done by following an open sky policy. “There can’t be protection,” he said.
He added that the two governments were in talks to re-negotiate the air service agreement. According to the agreement, there are 1,068 flights a week between destinations in the two countries. The ambassador said 1.38 lakh seats were being sold by UAE carriers a week.
In earlier reports, Albanna has mentioned that while over 500 flights are operated by Indian carriers, the share of UAE airlines was lower, at about 400 flights a week.
Later, responding to queries, the top diplomat noted that 55 percent of Indian traveling overseas now fly via, Dubai or Abu Dhabi. “A customer should be able to make a choice based on services and price points, on whether he wants to travel directly to a destination, or wants to stop at one point and then travel to the final destination. But that shouldn’t be influenced by giving him a limited choice, and not all choices,” he said.
UAE has now opened its doors to all international travellers. “We are ready to fly Indians out of UAE to India. And also fly Indians who need to get back to UAE as they work there, or have family. We are just waiting for approvals to operate the flights,” he said.
The comment days after the UAE said that passengers need to take approvals for visiting the country on Vande Bharat Mission flights operated by Air India.
The repatriation flights had come under spotlight after the US Transport Department had alleged that the Indian government was not granting approval to American airlines to operate similar flights between the two countries. Later, France had also aired similar concerns.
This had forced Ministry of Civil Aviation to respond that it is working on bilaterals with countries. Later, American carrier United was granted approval to operate three flights from Delhi, in July.
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