India, Dubai to increase bilateral air seat capacity by 11,000

India and Dubai on Wednesday agreed to increase weekly seat entitlements for air services between the two countries by 11,000 from the current 54,200 seats.

Under the agreement reached late on Wednesday, Dubai will allow Indian carriers to go in for a ''change of gauge'', by allowing them to change the aircraft they operate to Dubai.

The increase will be done in three phases – 5,500 seats in the summer schedule, another 3,300 more by the winter schedule and the remaining 2,200 by next summer, ie, by March 2015.

Currently, Air India, Air India Express, Jet Airways, SpiceJet and IndiGo operate regular flights to the Emirate.

The increase in total weekly seat entitlements to 65,200 seats by the summer of 2015 will, however, help the West Asian carriers most as Dubai wanted Indian carriers to shift operations to the newly opened Dubai Central Al Makhtoum Airport.

The new airport, which became operational last year, is 65 km from the existing Dubai Airport and passengers are unlikely to prefer the new airport to the Dubai airport.

In fact, Indian carriers, Air India and IndiGo, were reluctant to shift operations to the newly opened airport and bilateral talks had to be extended late into the night to reach a deal.

Dubai has been keen on enhancing its seat eligibility after India signed an MoU with Abu Dhabi.

There is no clarity if the new agreement will cap the number of flights that can be operated by Dubai carriers to various cities in India every week.

The move to grant additional seats to Dubai-based carriers would further constrain operations of Indian carriers, except perhaps Jet Airways, which is 24 per cent owned by Abu Dhabi's Etihad Airways.