The United Arab Emirates (UAE) wants a speedy restoration of normal air services with India as the lack of adequate flights is causing difficulties for travelers and has led to skyrocketing airfares, the UAE ambassador said on Wednesday. , Ahmed AlBanna.
As part of the air bubble agreement drawn up by the two countries in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, Emirates and Etihad, the flag carriers of the United Arab Emirates, are currently operating at 30% of their full capacity. under the normal air services agreement.
This affects traffic and the price of a return ticket has risen to almost ₹200,000 compared to the pre-pandemic rate of around ₹80,000 to ₹90,000. Besides returning to the air services agreement, which will see traffic double, the two countries should consider increasing capacity under the pact, AlBanna told a group of reporters.
The UAE has also asked the Indian government to exempt flights to the emirates from restrictions for the duration of Expo Dubai 2020, which will run until March next year, but has yet to got “green light”, he said.
The UAE is home to over three million Indian expatriates, the largest ethnic community in the emirates comprising professionals and blue-collar workers and their families. Demand for flights has increased as increasing numbers of Indians return to the UAE. Dubai also serves as a key transit point for Indians traveling to other parts of the world.
AlBanna noted that the total weekly capacity for Dubai alone under the air services agreement was around 65,000 seats, while only 24,000 seats are currently available. The frequency of flights on the Delhi-Dubai route has dropped from five to three a week, he said.
A clause in the 2007 air services agreement stipulates that when capacity on routes between the United Arab Emirates and India reaches 80%, new quotas to be shared between carriers of the two countries must be renegotiated. AlBanna noted that Indian carriers reached 100% capacity before the pandemic.
“At that time, there were 1,068 flights per week, with over 400 flights by UAE carriers and over 500 by Indian carriers. We have to renegotiate,” he said.
Two rounds of talks held in Mumbai in 2017 and New Delhi in 2019 had “failed to reach a final decision on capacity expansion for the four sectors of Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Sharjah and Ras Al Khaimah”, did he declare. It would be in India’s interest to end the airline bubble, revert to the Air Services Agreement and open all airports once travel restrictions are further eased, the government added. sent.
AlBanna said the UAE and India recently concluded the second round of negotiations on a proposed Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in Dubai and a third round will be held soon.
Although the two sides envisage the completion of the negotiations by March next year, AlBanna said: “I want it before March. Hopefully it will be in place. CEPA will be a big plus in our strategic partnership.
Referring to the first virtual meeting of foreign ministers from India, Israel, the United States and the United Arab Emirates last month, AlBanna said the four countries had no intention of creating a NATO-type alliance. ” It does not mean anything. It is an economic bloc that focuses on economic and trade collaboration among the four countries,” he said.
The technical teams of the four parties are preparing for an in-person ministerial meeting. “Very soon, once this is done, ministers will meet to discuss other sectors [of cooperation],” he said.