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IndiGo, rivals spar over Jet’s global slots

SpiceJet, Vistara and GoAir against IndiGo bagging most of the rights after govt owned Air India.

, ET Bureau|
Updated: May 20, 2019, 08.23 AM IST
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Airline sources said most of the remaining allocation would go to IndiGo as it’s the largest airline in the domestic sector.
NEW DELHI: The formula for distributing the foreign flying rights of the grounded Jet Airways has led to a schism in the airline industry, with IndiGo on one side and its rivals on the other, government officials told ET. State-owned Air India has first right of refusal — and will get about half of them on high-demand routes — and the remaining entitlements are given out in proportion to a carrier’s domestic flights, which would give IndiGo the most, since it’s market leader.

SpiceJet, Vistara and GoAir objected to this at a meeting convened by aviation secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola on the grounds that this would create a “monopoly,” said one of the persons cited above.

The airline promoter who recorded his opposition didn’t name the carrier, the sources said. The rights are to be apportioned in accordance with the Aeronautical Information Circular or AIC, which gives Air India first claim on the entitlements.

Rule Followed for Allotment Red-flagged

After Air India, foreign flying rights will be alloted to airlines ranked in order of domestic flights measured in ASKs or available seat kilometres.

“While the decision on the award of foreign flying rights of Jet Airways temporarily to other carriers has been taken, the opposition by airlines to the AIC is being discussed,” said an aviation ministry official, who didn’t want to be identified.

Air India’s share has been decided. It will get about 5,700 weekly seats on the India-Dubai route, over 5,000 on the India-Qatar route besides about 4,600 additional seats to and from London. This is about half of Jet’s quota on routes with high demand, said an airline executive.

“This is a temporary allocation,” said a SpiceJet spokesperson. “The objective is to immediately provide flights for passengers who are paying high fares, mostly to foreign airlines. This objective will be fulfilled by those airlines that can provide immediate capacity and who have slots at both origin and destination. The rule referred to was made in 2005 with the objective of protecting the incumbent carriers at that time, primarily Air India. The rule is not relevant to the temporary allocation that is being done at this time. The ministry has already ignored this rule by allotting some of Jet’s traffic rights to Air India on a temporary basis.”

IndiGo, Vistara and GoAir didn’t respond to queries.

Airline sources said most of the remaining allocation would go to IndiGo as it’s the largest airline in the domestic sector.

One executive said this would be unfair. “This is an unprecedented situation, as a large number quota has been made available on busy international routes and should be evenly awarded to airlines, including the new ones, which have just announced the launch of international services,” said the senior airline executive.

Another suggested that since the allocations are supposed to be temporary and with an intent of minimising inconvenience to the travelling public, pending Jet’s possible revival, the government should allocate it to carriers that already operate on those routes.

However, this would mean that new airlines like Vistara and AirAsia India would be deprived of extra flying rights as they launch their international operations. It should be noted that, apart from Air India, Indian carriers mostly only fly to nearby overseas destinations, although IndiGo flies as far as Istanbul.

Separately, AirAsia India has protested against the aviation ministry’s decision not to invite the carrier for meetings on the award of Jet Airways’ foreign flying rights. It also reiterated its demand for rights to operate flights to various destinations in Southeast Asia, among others. The airline has applied for permission to fly overseas and is expecting approvals soon as it completes five years of domestic operations in June next year.
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