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Thursday, 18 April, 2013, 17 : 00 PM [IST]

Air India plans to connect Delhi with new international cities this year

Part of its plan to meet intense competition from Gulf carriers
As part of its strategy to face increasing competition from Middle Eastern and South East Asian carriers, Air India is keen to start flying to new destinations this year, as per an ET report. India's national carrier plans to connect New Delhi to international cities like Birmingham, Moscow, Rome, Milan, Melbourne and Sydney, arguing that if new destinations are not opened up, Indian traffic would get routed through Abu Dhabi or Dubai airports for onward connections.

Rohit Nandan, Chairman and Managing Director, Air India said that if the government doesn't allow to operate flights to new destinations, demand for "sixth freedom" or ferrying Indian passengers onwards from hub airports like Dubai and Singapore will automatically increase. Sixth freedom traffic rights refer to the right of any foreign airline to carry passengers or cargo from India to a third country via their own country.

"Foreign airlines are not coming to India to invest. The government has to watch carefully that Foreign Direct Investment doesn't become merely a way to increase their share of bilateral rights. If Indian carriers don't invest in new destinations, over-capacity on certain routes will force passengers to use foreign airlines to go to destinations of their choice," Nandan stated.

Till date Gulf airlines like Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways, which are gateway carriers, dominate air routes between India and the Middle East to an extent that 40 per cent of total international Indian traffic is routed through the Gulf.  "SpiceJet's opening up of Guangzhou was a refreshing and different move. We are in an aggressive mood and it would be good for passengers if other Indian carriers open up new destinations," Nandan said.
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