India-UAE aviation tie-ups are flying high. First it was Jet Airways and Etihad deal and now the announcement of 11,000 more seats each week between Dubai and Indian destinations. Home to Burj Khalifa and the Dubai Mall, Dubai records tourist numbers and this will be going to increase as the travellers will now get more access to Dubai.
Flying to Dubai from India will now bring cheers to flyers. This surely is good news not only for leisure and business travellers in India but also for Indian expatriates, who will be spoilt for choice when it comes to flying home. Soon there will be 11,000 more seats available each week between Dubai and Indian destinations, thanks to a new understanding between India and the UAE. The two countries revised their bilateral air services agreement on the India-Dubai route, less than a year after a four-fold increase in weekly seats was agreed on the India-Abu Dhabi sector. Also, with Etihad’s expansion plan post their deal with Jet Airways, Dubai required seats to maintain Emirates top position in carrying international traffic out of India. Emirates is already the largest airline for Indian outbound traffic and this increase in seats will not only strengthen its grip on Indian travellers going abroad, it will also give it enough pricing power.
The agreement has also allowed Indian carriers to go in for a ‘change of gauge’ by allowing them to change aircraft they operate to Dubai. Indian airlines currently flying to the UAE include Air India, Air India Express, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and IndiGo. From Dubai, Emirates and FlyDubai operate regular flights. Flights between Dubai and India currently offer 54,200 seats per week between them. The seat enhancement is expected to be done in three phases – 5,500 seats this summer, 3,300 by winter and 2,200 by March 2015.
In the first phase, the number of additional seats at eight metros, including Delhi, Mumbai, Hyderabad, Bengaluru and Chennai, has reportedly been capped at 3,000 with airlines from Dubai being permitted to operate up to 900 seats a week to Kochi and 660 to Thiruvananthapuram.
Seat distribution not cleared
It is still not clear how the seats will be distributed among the airlines. A spokesperson from Emirates Airlines told to a daily, “Emirates currently operates 185 flights to India per week through 10 gateways.” However, he did not reveal how many more seats the airline will offer and to which destinations in the coming months.
Similarly, Air India and Air India Express which prides itself on a wider connectivity and network than other airlines, operates 49 flights from Dubai’s Terminal 1 and 61 flights from Terminal 2, in addition to its flights from the other emirates – has not shared its expansion plans so far.
One of the sources mentioned that from the Indian side, SpiceJet has already sought daily flights from three new tier II cities into Dubai and plans to begin these in about three months. It was not immediately clear if other domestic airlines have also sought increased flights into Dubai.
Tour operators’ viewpoint
Meanwhile, tour operators and travel agents said more seats will mean increased competition and reduced fares. Kulwant Singh Lama, managing director of Lama Tours, said, “An extra capacity was important given the positive vibe in the market. A lot more people are expected to come into Dubai as projects in realty, retail hospitality and other sectors take shape.”
Guldeep Singh Sahni, president, OTOAI (Outbound Tour Operators Association of India) said, “We expect fares to come down in the coming months. Every airline has a limitation on the number of seats it can offer which impacts fares. So, greater occupancy should mean lower fares, as the cost is better distributed.”
In less than four decades the serene desert kingdom transformed into one of the world’s most bustling cities and a leading global tourist destination. Home to Dubai are the world’s tallest manmade structure, the stunning Burj Khalifa at over 2,700 feet and the spectacular Fountain Show which surrounds it every evening. Right next door in the same neighbourhood lies world’s largest mall, the sprawling Dubai Mall, which is one of Dubai’s many premier shopping destinations. A total of 8.4 million passengers used the Dubai Airport in 2013, which was the highest from any country and nearly 14.3 per cent of the total traffic handled at the Dubai airport. As Dubai records visitor numbers, the initiatives, like bilateral air services, surely affect the tourist flow, for good of course!