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Gulf airlines denied direct flights to new Kerala airport
January 24, 2019, 1:22 pm
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Ministry of Civil Aviation in India has decided to defer granting direct flights by Gulf airlines to the newly opened Kannur International Airport in Kerala, for a further six months.
 
Kannur International Airport Ltd (KIAL) authorities had approached the civil aviation ministry requesting special permission for airlines from Gulf countries to operate two direct flights daily to Kannur, beyond the existing bilateral air services agreement between India and countries in the Gulf.
 
A special permission to allow flights to the Gulf countries, outside the bilateral rights on airline capacities, was allowed to both Cochin and Calicut international airports when they began operations.
 
Airline seat capacities between India and most Gulf states are currently nearing the maximum under existing bilateral agreements and constraining attempts by Gulf and Indian airlines from starting more flights.
 
In its proposal, KIAL had suggested that along with allowing Gulf carriers to operate two flights daily to Kannur, other Indian carriers would also be able to operate a matching number of flights to various destinations in Gulf region.
 
The ministry’s decision was announced last week following a high-powered meeting chaired jointly by the state’s Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and the Secretary at the Civil Aviation Ministry, held in Thiruvananthapuram, the state capital. The civil aviation secretary said the request for special permission had been turned down for the time being. However, he added the proposal could be reviewed after about six months.
 
The decision comes as a blow to several airlines from the Gulf, such as Emirates, Etihad, Saudia and FlyDubai that were planning to begin operations in this lucrative sector. National carrier, Air India Express, is at present the only airline operating international flights from Kannur to destinations including Abu Dhabi, Sharjah, Doha and Saudi Arabia.
 
On a positive note, the civil aviation ministry agreed to consider the suggestions for including Kannur airport under the ‘open sky policy’ between India and the ASEAN countries. If approved, it could lead to more international flights from Kannur, including to Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand.
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