With Jet Airways suspending its international flights in the face of deep financial crisis and staring at closure, rivals Air India and SpiceJet are eyeing the beleaguered carrier's flying rights to the lucrative India-Dubai route.
The two airlines are learnt to have urged the Civil Aviation Ministry to allocate traffic rights to them, in case Jet Airways fails to utilise the weekly seat quota granted by the government.
Talking to IANS, a senior Air India executive said that fares on the India-Dubai route had soared following sudden withdrawal of nearly 13,000 seats operated by Jet Airways on the sector.
"The seats may be reallocated to domestic carriers before Emirates has its monopoly at the cost of Indian carriers," the executive from the Indian flag carrier said.
Low-cost carrier SpiceJet, which has been on an expansion drive, also wants the government to allocate it the unutilised seats so that it could mount more capacity on the commercially profitable route.
The Gurgaon-based airline is looking to add about 6,000 seats per week from about 12,800 seats per week now. The airline on Monday announced to operate flights to eight foreign destinations including Dubai from Mumbai. The new flights will be started by May-end.
Industry experts have supported the idea of allocating unutilised seat entitlements by Jet Airways, stating it will help consumers.
"The government's job is to protect the consumers and the sector and not necessarily an individual company. The promoters knew that the airline was in financial trouble almost a year back, yet they have been playing hard ball and negotiations have been stretched to the point that finding a credible buyer is going to be a real challenge," said Dhiraj Mathur, partner, PwC.
He said that the drastic capacity reduction has sent fares into the stratosphere and threatens to jeopardize the sector's phenomenal growth in the past decade.
"Given this, the government should specify a very short time limit for concluding the resolution and then allocate the international traffic rights to other willing airlines who have the capacity," he added.
Crisis-ridden Jet Airways is desperately looking for funds as it is making its last ditch effort to get an investor on board. The airline is currently operating 7 aircraft from its peak of 119 a few months back.
Travel industry veteran Rajji Rai also supported domestic airlines' demand to re-allocate traffic rights given the twin issue of Pakistan banning overflying of Indian carriers over its airspace and Jet crisis pushing the fares northward.
"Due to restrictions imposed by Pakistan flying time to Dubai went up thus burning more fuel. Jet crisis added to the problem. The government must not allow Emirates to take over the India-Dubai sector," he added.
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