After Russian and Malaysia, it's Kuwait's turn - threatens to stop all flights to India from July

New Delhi: Kuwait has threatened to stop all flights to India from 1 July, alleging that New Delhi is going back on commitments in the air bilateral agreement between both countries. The action has taken New Delhi by surprise, particularly as it comes just weeks after both sides held talks on the issue.

It would appear that Kuwait's first private low-cost carrier, Jazeera Airways, would like to operate most of its flights via Dubai under the fifth freedom intermediate rights enshrined in the agreement. This right allows a carrier to pick up traffic to, and from, a third country. Already, 10 of Jazeera's 13 flights, to and from India, are routed via Dubai, its second hub after Kuwait City. This threatens the market for state-owned carriers Indian and Air India Express.

According to reports, Kuwait has been asking for a 50% increase in Jazeera's flights to, and from, India, which the civil aviation ministry has yet to clear, as it is likely to hit the national carriers.

Another factor is the air fare, which also tilts in Jazeera's favour, as it offers fares ranging from Rs4000-12,000 on the Mumbai-Dubai sector. Fares on the Air India Express, on the other hand, start at around Rs7000.

On the Indian side the argument is that though the bilateral understanding technically does not prevent Jazeera from flying via Dubai, the civil aviation ministry feels this is against the "spirit" of the agreement.