More direct flights likely for destinations in India


Pic: Times of Oman

Muscat: More Indian destinations are likely to be connected soon by direct flights from Oman as the Indian government has decided to review the bilateral agreement with Omani for enhancement of air traffic rights between the two countries.

This will increase the seat entitlements to both sides, thereby enabling an increase in the number of flights.

Currently, the existing traffic entitlements are 11,550 seats per week(S/W) between India and the Sultanate of Oman. While Oman Air is exhausting its quota, all the Indian carriers combined together are using between 80 and 90 per cent of traffic entitlements.

While Oman Air flights can land in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Jaipur, Kochi, Kozhikode, Lucknow, Mumbai and Thiruvananthapuram, Indian carriers can land only at Muscat and Salalah airports.

Speaking to Times of Oman, a senior official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, said that the ministry is all set to hold fresh talks to explore the possibilities of getting additional quota with countries such as Singapore, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Iraq, Macao and Afghanistan, as the existing traffic entitlements with them have got exhausted. The official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation also said that the government has granted permission to Indian carriers to launch more flights from the country.

"During the last summer schedule, Indian airlines were allowed to operate 1,074 services per week and the number of services has been increased to 1,526 for the next summer and 1,695 for the next winter all over the world," the official said.

Expanding reach

He said this decision is likely to open up new destinations which the Indian carriers were eying for a long time.

It is likely that the Indian low-cost carrier Indigo will soon launch Muscat-Chennai and Muscat-Kochi service besides increasing its frequency to Mumbai.

Air India, in its winter schedule, has already introduced direct flights to Calicut. "Besides Calicut, we have increased the capacity to Cochin and Trivandrum from Oman," said a senior official of Air India and Air India Express.

Pact revision

Revision of air services agreement with India and Oman is also likely to boost Oman Air plans in India which would secure the rights it needs to launch more flights into the country. The national carrier of Sultanate of Oman already serves a significant portion of India, flying to 10 destinations in India, including New Delhi, Mumbai, Bangalore and Jaipur.

"For the last couple of years we haven't grown in this market and we've been running at a very high seat factor as we await the decision for more seating capacity to India," said a senior official of Oman Air.  The Omani national carrier had been following up on its request to India's civil aviation authorities for additional rights.

Sources said that Oman Air is awaiting feedback from Indian authorities regarding launching Kolkata, Ahmedabad, Trichy and Mangalore flights from Muscat. "Hopefully, we will able to connect these places quickly once the air services agreements are revised," the official said.

All these destinations came up for discussion during trade talks in Muscat in September 2010 between Maqbool bin Ali bin Sultan, former minister of Commerce and Industry, and Anand Sharma, his Indian counterpart.

Oman Air officials said that they would rapidly grow in India once they are granted more seats. "The difficulty is that we are not able to launch more flights or connect new destinations because we don't know what the Indian government will grant us at the next round of talks," he said.

The official of the Ministry of Civil Aviation, Government of India, said, "We are holding talks with Oman. We thought of expansion with our carriers nearing the target of 11,500 seats in Oman," the official added.

In 2008, India and Oman had revised their bilateral air services agreements, allowing an addition of 11,550 seats per week in each direction. The two countries had agreed to designate multiple airlines during the past meeting.

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