India has allowed Saudi Arabia a 40% increase in airline seat quota from this month under bilateral agreement
Indian budget airlines Indigo and GoAir may soon start direct flights to Saudi cities Jeddah and Dammam respectively from Kannur International Airport.
This is even as Saudi Arabian Airlines may have to wait longer to operate flights to the newly opened airport in Kerala, despite India deciding last month to hike bilateral airline seat capacities between Indian and Saudi Arabia.
India has allowed Saudi Arabia a 40 percent increase in airline seat quota from this month under the bilateral rights, following the recent high profile visit of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman to India.
According to senior authorities at Kannur International Airport, despite the increase in airline seat quota, Saudia will be able to commence operations to the airport only when India’s aviation regulator DGCA (Directorate General of Civil Aviation) includes Kannur airport in the list of airports under the bilateral aviation services pact with the Saudi kingdom.
Kannur International Airport, being a new airport, does not figure in India’s existing bilateral air services pact with various countries and therefore first need to be made part of the list of airports in India before any foreign airline from countries which fall under bilateral air rights can start operating to the airport.
“We have taken up the issue of inclusion of Kannur airport in the list of airports under the India-Saudi Arabia bilateral rights so that the Saudi Arabian Airlines can start operations to our airport soon,” V Thulasidas, CEO of Kannur International Airport Ltd (KIAL), told Arabian Business.
“We are hopeful of a positive decision (by DGCA) on this soon,” he added.
Thulasidas said KIAL has also been holding meetings and making repeated requests to DGCA for allowing other Gulf-based airlines to operate direct operations to Kannur outside the existing bilateral rights with their respective countries.
DGCA or the federal civil aviation ministry is, however, yet to take a call on this.
He said Indian airlines such as IndiGo and GoAir, however, could soon be operating direct flights to destinations in Saudi Arabia which are listed under the bilateral rights.
Senior officials at the Kannur airport said IndiGo is planning to start services to Jeddah, while GoAir is planning to operate to Dammam. These plans are in the final stages, they said.
IndiGo and GoAir spokespersons were not available for comments.
Airport sources said Saudi Arabia has allowed an open sky policy for Dammam airport and therefore the bilateral air services pact will not be applicable to operating to the airport.
GoAir, which was the first Indian private carrier to operate flights to the Gulf region from Kannur airport, currently operates to Muscat and Abu Dhabi.
IndiGo is currently operating only to various destinations within India from Kannur.
State-owned Air India Express is the other Indian carrier which operates flights to various destinations in the Gulf region, barring Dubai.
With Indian carriers fully exhausting the quota to fly to Dubai, additional flights can be started only when the bilateral rights between India and UAE is expanded.