New Delhi: The state-run Airports Authority of India (AAI) wants more of its airports included as point of call in the bilateral discussion for traffic rights with countries in the Middle-East and Southeast Asia.
The public sector agency raised the issue in a meeting chaired by Civil Aviation Secretary Pradeep Singh Kharola but has failed to get instant positive response with the latter stating that such move would depend on bilateral interest and reciprocity.
"It involves bilateral interest with other countries and need to be examined by the concerned division on case-to-case basis to ensure reciprocity and balance of interests while extending any such concession," Secretary Kharola is learnt to have observed.
An AAI official said that many of its airports have enough capacity to handle more passengers and airlines. He further said that in case of insufficient passenger and cargo traffic, the airport capacity remains under-utilised.
Out of the 27 Indian cities from where international operations are currently being carried out, five cities -- Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru and Kochi -- account for about 70 per cent traffic.
"The bilateral discussion for traffic rights is done by the government with different countries. While AAI has no role in it we can be part of the discussions as observer," the official added, noting that there was precedence to it.
The AAI manages 125 airports, which include 18 international airports, seven customs airports, 78 domestic airports and 26 civil enclaves at defence airfields. The national airport operator has chalked out aggressive expansion plans given that government sees 1 billion fliers by 2035.
"The guiding principle for the government should be passenger interest and convenience while negotiating more traffic rights with foreign countries," said Dhiraj Mathur, Partner, PwC.
Bilateral traffic rights allow airlines of the respective countries to launch new flights and add capacity on foreign routes. With rising passenger demand there has been pressure on the government for enhancing traffic rights with countries like Dubai, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Thailand, Singapore and Hong Kong.
As per latest official data, as many as 91 international carriers which include six Indian and 85 foreign carriers connect the country with 56 countries through 343 routes.
(Nirbhay Kumar can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org)