Air Arabia asks Govt for RAK Airways' Calicut traffic rights
Its representation was rejected by the Union government in December 2014. But in less than 15 months of the rejection, Air Arabia has approached the Ministry of Civil Aviation for the same again. Under intense pressure the ministry has decided to consult the officials from law ministry and external affairs ministry on Thursday.
India’s air service agreement with UAE is unique and different from the standard process of bilateral flying agreements signed between two countries. While India has single air service agreement with UAE, New Delhi has given separate traffic rights to four out of seven Emirates forming UAE.
Thus four airlines of four emirates – Etihad (Abu Dhabi), Emirates (Dubai), Air Arabia (Sharjah) and RAK Airways (Ras-Al-Khaima) – have separate MOUs for respective traffic rights. The departure from the globally acceptable norm was due to reluctance by each Emirate to share its entitlement with each other.
RAK Airways stopped flying since the beginning of 2014. It had traffic right from Calicut. Since as per the MOU no other airlines from any of the Emirates could replace the RAK Airways right, Air Arabia saw an opportunity to grab those seats.
The airlines fly from 13 destinations in India including from Calicut.
The problem is due to particular character of air service agreement signed separately by each Emirate with India the seats allotted to Ras-Al-Kamiah cannot be passed on to any other airlines from UAE. Such allocation will defeat the very nature of the air service agreement with UAE and its four Emirates.
In fact, in December 2014 the ministry of civil aviation examined the issue in detail and concluded that in view of the peculiar nature of agreement, India “may not approve of the proposal … to accept the designation of Air Arabia on India - Ras-Al-Khaimah route.” Civil aviation ministry is currently busy giving final shape to the new civil aviation policy announced last year.
It was proposed in the policy that India would auction unutilised bilaterals to the highest bidder and utilise the money so raised for development of civil aviation to interiors and unremunerative routes.
The unused traffic right of Ras-Al-Khaimah would then help the civil aviation development if the same is auctioned. Apart from disturbing an accepted norm between Emirates of UAE and India the government will not like to offer the unused traffic to Air Arabia instead of monetising the same as per the new civil aviation policy.
If the government yields under lobbying pressure from Air Arabia the opposition is certain to raise the issue in a big way and embarrass the Modi government. All eyes are thus on how the ministry of civil aviation handle the Air Arabia lobbyists.