New Delhi: Jet Airways’ plans to start additional flights to London have hit air pockets as Air India has conveyed to the government that its seat entitlement to Heathrow airport cannot be allocated to the private carrier even though they remain unused for now.
Seeking to protect its turf, the public sector airline has shot off a letter to the civil aviation ministry advising it to push aside the Jet Airways’ proposal. The carrier has contended that it is in the process of restructuring its flights to Heathrow airport and would soon be using all the traffic rights given to it.
Sources said Jet Airways had struck a deal with its partner KLM Royal Dutch Airlines for slots at the Heathrow airport and sought Indian government’s permission to launch new flights.
“The aviation ministry wrote to us about this and asked for our views. We have shared our restructuring plan with the ministry and reasoned why our rights cannot be given to other carrier,” a senior Air India official told FC.
Air India operates about 21 flights from Mumbai and Delhi to London. While it has regulatory approval for another 7 flight to the European city, it has not been flying them since 2016. Jet Airways is eyeing these flying rights arguing they remain unused for quite some time.
“The ministry is not counting our flights to London from Ahmedabad. That is why this confusion has come up. We are going to start more flights from Mumbai to London and then we would be using all our slots,” the official quoted above said.
The UK is one of the key markets for Indian carriers with nearly 5 per cent of the total international passengers flying to the European city. India has near open sky agreement with the UK except for Heathrow airport as it is slot constrained.
Among various Indian carriers, Air India and Jet Airways operate flights to London. While biggest domestic carrier IndiGo does not have flights to the UK it is in the process of charting out plan to put the lucrative market on its network.
Aviation experts maintain that London would continue to be one of the most lucrative routes for Indian carriers after the west Asia & Middle East. It is one of the few routes where demand for business class is very high. Further, traffic on this route would remain substantial and hence profitable.
“As far as Air India is concerned, they should not hold on to rights on such a lucrative routes. The government should give them a deadline to use those rights and failing this they should be allocated to other carriers,” said ClubOne Air CEO and former India head of Qatar Airways Rajan Mehra
Mehra further said if Air India does not use its slots and government does not give these unused entitlements to the other Indian carrier, British carriers would stand to gain....