Bilateral rights dispute: don’t confuse us with Gulf states, says Jazeera Air CEO
Indian regulators should not lump Kuwait with other Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) countries when deciding whether to grant bilateral rights because it does not have a mega-carrier that competes with Indian airlines on long-haul routes, said Rohit Ramachandran, chief executive officer. Jazira Airways.
Jazeera Airways is a private Kuwaiti low cost airline. It operates 30 weekly flights to eight cities in India but growth has been slow due to limited traffic rights.
India and Kuwait renegotiated the air service agreement in 2007, and both sides’ carriers are allowed to accommodate 12,000 seats per week each. But now this limit has been exhausted with the expansion of the Indian diaspora in Kuwait.
The Kuwait government has requested an additional 38,000 weekly slots and rights to work in five cities including Jaipur, Goa, Madurai, Amritsar and Tiruchirappalli.
“India is incredibly important to us. India is our third largest market in terms of passenger traffic and revenue. About 15 percent of our income comes from operations in India. We would like to grow in India, but unfortunately, due to the lack of additional rights, we will now have to locate our aircraft in other markets,” he said.
Incidentally, Ramachandran is the only Indian CEO of a West Asian airline.
“We are a small airline and nearly 85% of our business is in direct transportation. We have no desire or intention to compete with Indian carriers on long haul routes,” he added.
“Almost 55% of the traffic between India and Kuwait goes through a third point, and this is not beneficial for carriers on either side,” he said.
Last week, Jazeera Airways announced plans to establish a new airline in Saudi Arabia, its largest overseas market, and is in the process of obtaining all approvals. “We have no intention of investing in any Indian airline,” he added.