Hundreds of passengers travelling to India from Kuwait from next month on state-owned Air India and Indian flights may have to make alternative arrangements as the emirate nation has indicated that it would not allow India's two national carriers to land in its capital from July 1.
Kuwait is apparently peeved with New Delhi's reported unwillingness to allow more Kuwaiti flights to operate from India in line with an pact signed between the two countries, the Arab Times reported on Monday.
India's unwillingness is seen as an attempt to safeguard the interest of its state-owned carriers, the paper said.
Kuwait's Director General of Civil Aviation issued a circular to Air India and Indian hinting at an impending ban on the two carriers, the report quoted an unnamed Indian airline official as saying.
A Kuwait Airways official said India had yet to react to the circular, while the Indian official expressed hope that the ongoing talks between Kuwait and India in New Delhi would find a solution to the issue.
"We are in touch with our head office in Delhi. On a daily basis, about a 100 passengers of Indian alone will be displaced if DGCA goes ahead with its decision," the Indian official said, adding, "We will know the outcome of the talks by Tuesday."
The Indian carriers, meanwhile, are in talks with other airlines to make alternate arrangements if the two sides fail to hammer out a deal.
Passengers wishing to cancel their bookings with Indian airlines can do so without paying any cancellation fees, an official said.
"As of now, there is no panic among the passengers and we are undertaking bookings for the month of July and beyond," the official said.
Asked whether Indian had any alternate plan ready, the official said the airline was exploring all possibilities and would make an announcement at an opportune time.
Travel agents said bookings for Indian and Air India had not plunged. "It is impossible to stop flights at the eleventh hour and had there been any such measure, then the concerned airlines would have informed passengers in advance or made alternate arrangements," they said.
"We got some inquiries from other airlines expressing their willingness to accommodate our passengers if talks fail between the two sides," a travel agent was quoted as saying.
Travel agents also claimed they had not to received any intimation about the ban on Indian flights.
Talks between Kuwait and India hit a roadblock early June and the two sides are currently holding the second round of talks.
Air India operates four weekly flights to Bombay and Indian three weekly flights to destinations in southern India. Kuwait Airways and Jazeera airlines operate daily flights to Mumbai and also weekly flights to other south Indian destinations.
Earlier, Kuwait had threatened to stop all flights to India from July 1, alleging New Delhi was going back on its commitments in the bilateral air agreement between both countries.
Kuwait's first private budget airline, Jazeera Airways, reportedly wants to operate most of its flights via Dubai as per the fifth freedom intermediate rights guaranteed in the agreement, the report said.
This right allows a carrier to pick traffic to and from a third country.
Already, ten of Jazeera's 13 flights, to and from India, are routed via Dubai, its second hub after Kuwait City. This in turn threatens the market for Indian and Air India, the report added.
Kuwait has called for a 50 per cent hike in Jazeera's flights to and from India but the latter's civil aviation ministry is yet to give a green light to the proposal.