As summer airfares rise on high-volume routes connecting major Indian cities with Doha, Qatar Airways Wednesday said it has asked Indian aviation authorities to permit additional flights on such routes on a temporary basis. "Our contingency plan is designed to make an additional number of seats available on certain high volume routes (Mumbai, New Delhi, Bangalore), but only a temporary basis and without formal changes to the current weekly seat capacity entitlement established under the 2009 Qatar-India bilateral aviation framework," said the airline.
With Jet Airways shutting down its operations on April 17, there has been a sudden reduction in the number of flights connecting Indian cities with Qatar's capital Doha. Consequently, the airfares for the peak summer season have shot up on these routes. "Qatar Airways' temporary contingency plan, which has been formally submitted to the relevant Indian authorities, aims to offer a viable travelling alternative to thousands of Indian families and children that otherwise would be left without concrete options," the airline said.
The national carrier of Qatar said that without its contingency plan, Indian travellers will be forced to either choose expensive last-minute tickets or complicated and burdensome re-routings. As per the 2009 bilateral aviation framework between India and Qatar, one country's airlines can fly a maximum of 24,292 passengers per week to other countries. Qatar had asked the Indian government in November 2016 to more than double this weekly seat capacity entitlement. However, the Indian government refused to accede to this request.
According to a senior Indian government official, major Indian airlines have repeatedly expressed their fears that their international expansion plans may get hit if Qatar's weekly seat entitlement is increased as Qatar Airways would be able to carry a lot of forwarding traffic to Europe, Africa and America through Doha. According to the latest numbers from the Ministry of Interior of Qatar, there are more than 7,00,000 Indian expats living in Qatar, which account for about 25 per cent of the total population.
Qatar Airways said Wednesday, "The sudden reduction in the number of seats offered between Doha and various Indian cities, combined with the imminent peak in traffic demand due to summer vacation, are already putting enormous upward pressure on costs in a restricted market that is unlikely to offer new seats or re-distribute existing capacity in sufficient numbers to meet demand."