The government on Friday opened up the lucrative Gulf sector for private airlines and granted rights to the Naresh Goyal-promoted Jet Airways to begin operations. <b1>
Jet Airways has been allowed to commence operations from January 1, 2008, ending the exclusivity enjoyed by state-owned Air-India in the highly rewarding sector.
Jet Airways recently started flights from India to the US and Canada and announced plans to connect several cities in Europe. It is also looking at connecting cities in Iran and Israel.
An existing government policy prevents private Indian airlines to operate international flights to and from Gulf till the end of 2007. "The Gulf routes are reserved only for the Indian public carriers till then," a civil aviation ministry statement said. Jet Airways has been granted rights to offer 3,682 seats to Kuwait every week of which 1,582 are from Delhi, 1,050 from Thiruvananthapuram and 1,050 from Kochi.
The airline will also be free to offer up to 3,150 seats to Oman of which 1,050 are from Kochi, 1,050 from Thiruvananthapuram and 1,050 from Kozhikode.
Besides, it can offer 2,100 seats to Qatar of which 1050 are from Mumbai and 1,050 from Kozhikode. Similarly, it can offer 2,100 seats to Bahrain of which 1,050 are from Mumbai and 1,050 from Kochi.
Jet Airways, which had applied for traffic rights on the Gulf and Middle East routes in July this year, had also sought rights Dubai and Abu Dhabi. These have not yet been granted. "Their request for grant of traffic rights on the India-Dubai and India-Abu Dhabi routes is under the consideration of the Government," the statement said.
Air-India dominates the Gulf and US sectors.
The government has proposed to review bilateral air services agreements with other countries and do away with existing commercial agreements over the next two years.
The national civil aviation policy, which has been referred to a Group of Ministers headed by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, has proposed that existing commercial agreements will be phased out by December 31, 2009.
Aviation analysts said the decision to grant traffic rights to private airlines on the Gulf sector could create pricing pressure for the state-owned carrier.
The Vijay Mallya-promoted Kingfisher Airlines, which recently acquired 26 per cent in budget carrier Air Deccan, is keen on starting international operations.