Despite strong opposition from some domestic carriers, India has increased the bilateral airline seat entitlement with Dubai by another 11,000 seats per week. This takes the total number of weekly seats between the two countries to over 65,000.
The move, strongly criticised by experts, follows a nearly four-fold hike in weekly flying rights granted to Abu Dhabi last April.
"India's aviation strategy is currently against national interests. Such decisions should have been left to the new government and not approved in last few days of the present government," said Kapil Kaul, South Asia CEO of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, an aviation consultancy firm.
"With the new allocation, the total weekly seats entitlement to UAE is now over 1,30,000 seats. UAE's entitlement is now almost equal to that of all Asian or European countries put together. The ministry appears to be keen on serving interests of West Asian airlines than Indian carriers," said Jitender Bhargava, former executive director, Air India (AI).
"West Asia entitlements now stand at 2,60,000 weekly seats, which is closer to combined Asian and European entitlements," said Kaul.
Dubai-based Emirates, which already has the second-largest share of the Indian international passenger market, can now fly the superjumbo A380 to India.
"India is increasingly outsourcing its International traffic to West Asian countries. Air India will be hurt most and impact on their North American operations that contribute 30% of the total international revenues will be serious," said Kaul.