Gulf carriers seeking 150,000 more seats into India

New report says region's airlines keen to increase capacity on route to south Asian country

Gulf carriers are likely to seek permission for more than 150,000 more seats a week in capacity from the Indian government, according to a report from a global aviation consultancy firm.

The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), an international global aviation consulting firm, said access and flights to tier II Indian cities would see the need for increased capacity for Gulf carriers.

“CAPA maintains a large dedicated aviation research practice in New Delhi so we monitor developments on foreign airline strategies in India and regulatory issues such as bilateral entitlements on a continuous basis. Our assessment that the Middle East carriers are seeking up to 150,000 additional weekly seats into India is based on this ongoing research,” a spokesperson said.

CAPA said the basis for its claims are “client confidential” but estimated that the main Middle Eastern carriers – Dubai’s Emirates Airline, Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways, Doha’s Qatar Airways and UAE low cost carrier Air Arabia - are soon likely to seek permission from the Indian government for the extra seats.

The report also claimed the carriers were likely to push for permission for the A380 – which they are currently not allowed to fly into Indian cities – to be used as part of the increased capacity.

"The Middle Eastern airlines will make a very compelling case for this expansion as they have a total of 400 aircraft on order. Of these, 90 are wide-bodied aircraft. These airlines need markets like India to open up for picking up traffic," said Kapil Kaul, CEO, South Asia and Middle East, CAPA, told the Economic Times newspaper.

Gulf carriers currently account for 22 percent of international traffic into India and have recently increased their interests in the region.

Last week, India's Jet Airways confirmed it has sold a minority stake to Etihad Airways for around $379m. The investment would be the first by an overseas operator in an existing Indian carrier since the country relaxed ownership rules in September to allow foreign carriers to buy up to 49 percent in local airlines, which face stiff competition and high operating costs.

It would give Etihad a bigger foothold in fast-growing India and provide Jet, the country's largest carrier, with a deep-pocketed global partner as well as cash to retire debt that totalled $2.1bn at the end of December.

Qatar Airways is also reportedly in talks with rival SpiceJet to purchase a stake.

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