EXCLUSIVE-India resists UAE's calls for more air access, wants domestic carriers to fly long haul

Credit: REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah

By Aditi Shah and Tim Hepher

NEW DELHI, March 21 (Reuters) - India is not looking at increasing air traffic rights for the United Arab Emirates, despite calls by Gulf carriers, and wants its domestic airlines to offer non-stop long haul flights, its civil aviation minister told Reuters in an interview on Tuesday.

The UAE has urged India to increase the maximum number of seats between the two countries by 50,000 a week from about 65,000 a week today, but Jyotiraditya Scindia said: "at this point we're not looking at increasing it".

India is one of the world's fastest-growing aviation markets where demand for air travel is outstripping the supply of planes. But the bulk of India's international air traffic is currently carried by Gulf airlines such as Emirates and Qatar Airways, powered by efficient hubs like Dubai and Doha.

The Indian government wants to recapture traffic lost to foreign carriers and is pushing airlines to order more widebody planes to meet demand.

Air India last month placed a record order for 470 jets and is making an aggressive push in the international market by offering fliers, especially the Indian diaspora, non-stop flights to long haul destinations in the United States.

Scindia said Air India's widebody plane order and IndiGo's plans to fly twin-aisle planes were signs the "transition" has begun.

"The minute you give direct connectivity to international locations directly from Delhi, any passenger is going to prefer a direct connect, rather than going through another country's hub," he said at his New Delhi office.

India is mobilising to handle the transportation needs of its population of 1.3 billion by building new airports in the country's remotest parts, while also expanding capacity at metro hub airports like Delhi and Mumbai.

"We are going to see an explosion of air traffic in India in the years to come," said the minister, adding the main reasons powering this were a growing economy, rapid urbanisation, increasing disposable incomes and growing aspirations.

The minister also sees more scope for aerospace manufacturing in the country and says companies are eager to produce more locally.

(Reporting by Aditi Shah, Tim Hepher; Editing by Andrew Heavens and Mark Potter)

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