'Govt looking into foreign airlines' demand of traffic rights'
London: The Civil Aviation Ministry is evaluating demands by various foreign airlines to enhance bilateral air traffic rights in the wake of a massive hike granted to Abu Dhabi following the Jet-Etihad deal.
"The Ministry is planning to evaluate India's international passenger growth and will also see how the existing bilateral rights are being used by Emirates before taking a call on their request," Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh told reporters here.
He was responding to questions on the demands made by major Gulf carriers Emirates and Qatar Airways for increasing their air traffic rights which allow them to operate to India.
India and Abu Dhabi last month agreed to hike the bilateral air traffic rights from over 13,000 to about 50,000 seats per week.
On Emirates, Singh, however, said it has "not even used the current entitlement fully and was using only 50,000 seats a week as against nearly 55,000 they are entitled to."
Asked about the opposition faced by the Jet-Etihad deal, the Minister said SEBI and other agencies have "raised certain queries and these are being answered."
He said the Standing Committee headed by CPI-M leader Sitaram Yechury "too has made some observations but nothing has come to me."
Singh said there were also allegations that Jet had sold its London Heathrow slots to Etihad and that these slots were national assets.
"The Civil Aviation Ministry has never had anything to do with slots. Government does not decide why and to who such slots are given, leased out or sold to by private airlines," he said.
Terming as incorrect the charge that the Jet-Etihad deal was done just when the bilaterals were enhanced, Singh said "the talks between India and Abu Dhabi on seat entitlements were on for around eight-nine months. I failed to understand where was the problem".
"The only problem that I could figure out that the Jet- Etihad equity deal and bilateral renegotiation happened at the same time," Singh said.