Flydubai has plans to launch new direct services to several airports in India and is currently awaiting regulatory approvals to begin these services, a senior executive of the airline has said.
“We are looking at a number of airports in India that we can potentially operate to. Announcements will be made only when the necessary approvals are obtained,” Sudhir Sreedharan, vice president, commercial operations of Flydubai, told Arabian Business.
Aviation industry sources in India said Visakhapatnam in Andhra Pradesh is among the new destinations Flydubai is looking at to commence operations in the near future and that it has held discussions with India’s aviation ministry and regulatory officials concerning the new route.
Flydubai executives, however, did not comment on any specific route plan.
“We continuously look at opportunities to expand our operations in the market (in India). Any discussions regarding bilateral agreements are done at a government level,” Sreedharan said.
“We remain committed to opening up underserved markets that had no or very little direct connections to the UAE. We will continue to look at more opportunities to strengthen the air links in the region and provide more passengers with more options to travel whether on business or economy,” he added.
Restrictions on flying rights and passenger seat capacities under the bilateral air services pact between India and the UAE have been hampering airlines the launch of new and additional services between Dubai and India.
With the capacity under the bilateral rights almost exhausted, aviation authorities and airlines in the UAE have been asking for a review of the existing bilateral rights to expand capacities between the two regions.
India’s civil aviation ministry and the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) have repeatedly declined to review the matter.
Indian carriers are said to be reluctant to support an expansion of the bilateral rights, apparently due to a concerns that Gulf carriers, which could garner the prime slots at Dubai International Airport, would benefit the most from a new agreement.
“The challenge for Indian airlines is not the slots in Dubai (aiport) but rather these airlines still have significantly higher operating costs compared to Flydubai,” Saj Ahmad, chief analyst with London-based StrategicAero Research, told Arabian Business.
“This is why Indian airlines might feel that if the bilateral did open up more capacity, more traffic would flow to (Gulf-based) airlines like Flydubai first, rather than themselves,” Ahmad added.
Failure to get regulatory approvals to commence operations to new destinations in India has led to Flydubai’s market share in its India operations remaining static at 4 percent in 2018.