Dubai’s airlines operates with 66,000 seat cap, want 50,000 more – ET TravelWorld

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Dubai has sought a 76 per cent hike in flying rights as Emirates, along with its low cost arm flyDubai, is now operating the maximum allowed 66,000 seats per week allowed under current bilaterals. The largest destination for Indian globetrotters has requested for additional 50,000 seats per week. Emirates plans to go beyond the current about 170 weekly flights to nine Indian cities India by brining places like Amritsar, Lucknow and Goa Mopa on its network and then flying to new airports like Navi Mumbai and Greater Noida when they are ready.

Emirates has been the largest foreign airline in India for several years. The last bilateral enhancement had happened about a decade back and now Indian carriers are also very close to exhausting their flying rights to Dubai – the biggest destination for Indians going abroad. From India’s side, Akasa is soon going to be eligible to fly abroad and Tata’s Air India Group and IndiGo are on a massive expansion spree. Dubai sees the maximum demand for travel to and from the country.

“We are working hard with the civil aviation (authorities) in India and the UAE to try to increase the bilaterals for airlines of both sides and passengers to benefit. We are operating at peak allowed capacity in Delhi under the sub-limits of the existing bilaterals. We have been in consultation (for enhancing bilaterals). India and UAE are in talks for a (virtually) free trade agreement and airlines can make that more effective with more flights carrying more cargo,” stated Emirates VP (India & Nepal) Mohammad Sarhan.

Asked if enhanced bilaterals do not happen, will Emirates look at inorganic growth by investing in an Indian carrier? “We recently signed code share with United, which used to be our competitor. Things can change. Though nothing at the moment, at some point we can have a strong code share partnership with an Indian carrier (the one with SpiceJet did not take off). The relationship between India and UAE, between Prime Minister Modi and our top leadership, is amazing. We continue to request both the governments fro enhanced bilaterals. We are not interested (in picking up stake in Indian carrier),” Sarhan said.

Thanks to Dubai’s sizeable bilaterals and the absence of a financially strong medium to ultra long haul desi carrier, Emirates has for years been flying people between India and rest of the world. It has often been called the de facto national airline of India. Now with Air India back with founder Tata Group who have major expansion plans for the Maharaja, does Emirates feel its sixth freedom (transit) traffic to and from India will get affected?


Dubai’s ruler, Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, announced the relaunched flying taxi programme on Twitter Sunday. This time, Dubai highlighted the six-rotor electric flying taxi made by Joby Aviation of Santa Cruz, California, in the promotional video.

“We are a dynamic airline and always keep an eye on our competitors. We do have to really react but do our own route modifications. At the moment we do not see anything to worry about. We operate in several markets that have strong airlines. There are always some consumers who like to go nonstop and others who want to take break to stretch their legs. We always differentiate ourselves on our product and services. It’s not just about a direct flight but also the product. We welcome healthy competition,” he said.

The India market is very big and the demand has remained very strong, even during Covid, and post the reopening last year. “Tomorrow if there is a strong airline in India, nothing like it, it’s even better for the market. The demand for travel is huge in India and the supply from airlines’ side is not matching. The airline community in India is not taking a fair share of the market. All airlines can do much better in this market. We want to offer better services at a better price to the Indian market. Indian consumer suffers by limiting bilaterals as they pay more and the product may also not be that good,” Sarhan said.

While not giving what percentage of traffic from India transits via Dubai on other Emirates flights and ditto on the way back, Sarhan said, “Indian population in the UAE is 30 lakh and Dubai is our main market. That, tourism and business account for a significant travel between India and Dubai. The UK and US market are also big given the Indian diaspora there. Being a big network airline, we have that (transit) traffic too.”

Emirates started operations in 1985 and Delhi and Mumbai were among its first destinations Dubai. Last April as soon as the Covid restrictions were removed, the mega carrier went back to 100 per cent of its pre-Covid capacity to India which means 167 flights to nine Indian cities per week, per direction.

In pre-Covid times, Emirates used to operate 170 weekly flights to nine cities which included 24 weekly to Bengaluru. Recently it started using the double decker Airbus A380 for one flight to Bengaluru. To maintain the allowed weekly 66,000 seat count, it reduced Bengaluru weekly flight frequency to 21 and the India figure therefore dropped to 167. India-Dubai bilaterals are by number of seats and not number of flights.

“We are refurbishing our over 120 aircraft in a couple of years and introducing premium economy. Emirates wide body will have four classes – first, business, premium economy and economy. Seven to eight of our aircraft have already got the premium economy cabin. Mumbai and Delhi will receive them first being A380 destinations. Currently premium economy is on flights to London, Sydney, Paris and every month as we get one to two aircraft refurbished, this list will grow,” he said.

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