A commitment on providing desired slots to Indian airlines at the Dubai airport is likely to become a key factor in talks to decide any increase in bilateral traffic entitlements between India and Dubai.
Negotiations between the two sides are likely to begin soon. “I am not saying anything on whether the increase in bilateral entitlements will depend on commitment by Dubai authorities on providing desired slots to Indian carriers or not. But this is going to be the key factor during the discussions,” said a top aviation ministry official, who did not want to be named.
This will be the first time the Indian government seeking such a commitment during the negotiations to increase the quota of flights with a foreign country. Indian airlines have complained to the aviation ministry about not getting desired slots at the Dubai airport.
Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju had on January 3, 2016, written to the Dubai authorities about providing such slots to Indian carriers.
In his letter to the president of the Dubai Civil Aviation Authority, Ahmed Bin Saeed Al Maktoum, Raju had stressed that non-availability of slots is the reason behind non-utilisation of bilateral entitlements by Indian carriers, ET had reported on February 23.
Analysts say that it will be difficult for India to get such a commitment from Dubai, as slots are managed by airports — not the government — and are allocated based on availability.
“The challenge with most airports is slots and this has nothing to do with government or regulator polices. As with Dubai, even GMR-AAI Airport arrival and departure slots are directly linked to congestion and availability, so to impose this as part of an external lobby policy with the UAE is unproductive as nothing much can be done, holistically,” said Mark Martin, the chief executive of Martin Consultancy, an aviation advisory firm.
At the Dubai airport, slots are allocated by an external contracted agency and the allotments are often linked to runway occupancy, he added. “The Indian government should instead focus on the cost and charges imposed to Indian carriers as a result of operating during congestion hours,” he said.
The negotiations between India and Dubai will begin soon, as carriers from both sides have exhausted the existing quota. Current entitlements between India and Dubai allow airlines to operate 63,000 weekly seats.