India’s civil aviation ministry has deferred a decision on allowing Gulf carriers to fly to the newly opened Kannur International Airport in Kerala.
The decision dashes the hopes of airlines such as Emirates, Flydubai, Etihad and Saudia that they will be able to commence their direct flights to the Kerala airport soon.
Kannur Interntional Airport Ltd (KIAL) authorities had made a special request to the ministry for allowing airlines from the Middle East to operate daily two flights each to Kannur, outside the existing bilateral air services agreement between India and countries in that region.
At a meeting held in Trivandrum, KIAL’s request for sanctioning additional flights by Gulf and Indian carriers outside the existing bilateral airline seat limits is understood to have been turned down the request “for the time being”.
“The civil aviation secretary, however, has agreed to review the proposal after about six months,” one of the participants at the meeting told Arabian Business.
Airline seat capacities have almost exhausted under the existing bilateral rights with several Gulf countries, constraining Gulf and Indian carriers to start direct fights to Kannur.
State-owned Air India Express is the lone carrier that currently operates international flights from Kannur to destinations such as Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and some other cities in GCC.
The civil aviation ministry, however, has agreed to consider the suggestions for including Kannur airport under the ‘open sky policy’ between India and the ASEAN countries, a move, if allowed, will pave the way for starting of flights from Kannur airport to destinations such as Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand.
The Monday meeting convened jointly by the Kerala chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan and civil aviation ministry to discuss allowing flights to and from the Gulf region and other issues related to development of the Kannur airport was attended by representatives of several Gulf-based airlines including Emirates, Etihad, Saudia, Flydubai and Oman Airways.
“We plan to take up the issue (of allowing additional flights by Gulf and Indian carriers) with the civil aviation ministry again sometime soon,” KIAL managing director V Thulasidas told Arabian Business.
KIAL authorities were banking on services to the Gulf region for faster uptick in passenger handling at the airport, a region which has the largest number of Indian expats working and doing business.
Along with its request for allowing Gulf carriers to operate two flights daily to Kannur, KIAL has also suggested allowing Indian carriers to operate a matching number of flights to various destinations in Gulf region.
Such a special dispensation of allowing flights to the Gulf countries outside the bilateral rights on airline capacities was allowed to both Cochin and Calicut international airports when they opened for operations.
Thulasidas said all airlines from the Gulf region were keen to start their operations to Kannur and have argued for permission for it at the Monday meeting.
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