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Flyers to Dubai feel pinch as bilateral agreement limits number of flights

Airfares to Dubai from Chennai and other cities in India are likely to remain expensive during the holiday season as the number of flights permitted by the bilateral agreement between the two countries has been exhausted on both sides.

Airlines based in West Asia have placed orders for narrow-body long-range planes including the B737 Max, A321 and A320Neo but these may be used only to connect hubs like Dubai, Abu Dhabi and Sharjah+ with destinations in Eastern Europe, Africa, Southeast Asia and the Far East, not India.


Flydubai showcased its new Boeing 737 Max at the Dubai Airshow and also sealed an order for 225 B737 MAX aircraft.

The airline's senior vice president, commercial operations, India, GCC and Africa, Sudhir Sreedharan, said, "We would love to bring the plane to India and start more services because there is a growing demand for seats to Dubai. But the bilateral agreement between the countries for flying rights has been exhausted. It's time the governments increase the seats for both sides." Flydubai is unable to operate daily flights from Dubai to Chennai, Mumbai or Delhi+ because the bilateral agreement is yet to be revised.

The airfare from Chennai to Dubai ranges from ₹20,000 to ₹35,000 for a round trip on direct flights close to the Christmas holidays.
Airlines bump people off flights if they do not carry out online check-ins in advance, said B Somakumar, a frequent traveller on the Chennai-Dubai route, adding that airlines sometimes claim their flights are overbooked though confirmed seats are available, especially during the holiday season when demand is very high for travel to India. The demand for business class seats too is up on the Chennai-Dubai route.

The lack of scope to increase the number of flights may also impact travellers who fly beyond Dubai to the US. More than 50% of the travellers who fly into Dubai are transiting to Europe or the US or to destinations in Africa and Eastern Europe because Emirates, Flydubai and Air Arabia offer good connections from their respective hub airports in West Asia.

Sreedharan said the number of travellers from India who travel to the US via Dubai has grown. "Around 75% of them fly via Dubai," he added.
Air Arabia, which already operates to Chennai, has ordered six A321Neo LR planes on lease and is planning to use them on long-haul routes from its hubs at Sharjah, Morocco and Egypt. "We are also looking at routes to Southeast Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe to operate flights from our hub airports," said Air Arabia CEO Adel Al Ali in Dubai.

The expansion of the fleets of these airlines to connect West Asia to other regions via direct flights and also through codeshare will open up new routes for travellers from Chennai, Mumbai and Delhi.

"Codeshare agreement between Flydubai and Emirates will open up more points. Eastern Europe and Africa can be connected via Dubai to Mumbai and Chennai," Sreedharan said.

Source: timesofindia

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