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Air Arabia, flydubai discuss Indian expansion.

Dubai: Air Arabia and flydubai held discussions with Indian officials on Tuesday to discuss expanding operations into Odisha, an eastern state, the airlines confirmed to Gulf News on Wednesday.

Representatives from the Sharjah- and Dubai-based airlines attended a meeting in New Delhi with India aviation officials and representatives from the Odisha government where they were invited to expand operations to Bhubaneswar, a city in Odisha.

Other international carriers, such as Thai Airways, as well as Indian domestic airlines, including Spicejet and IndiGo, were also present at the meeting and invited to expand their operations into the eastern Indian state, according to local media reports.

A spokesperson for flydubai in an emailed statement confirmed that one of the airline's representatives attended the meeting in New Delhi but said the airline currently works within the constraints of the bilateral agreements.

Expansion plans into the highly lucrative Indian market by Air Arabia, flydubai, or any other UAE carrier is dependent on a new bilateral agreement between the UAE and Indian government.

Along with Air Arabia and flydubai, UAE airlines Emirates, Etihad Airways and RAK Airways currently fly into the Indian market.

The bilateral agreements also grant Indian carriers access to destinations in the UAE.

"We are keen to work together with the Indian state authorities, including the authorities in Bhubaneshwar and look forward to the regulatory authorities providing a framework to support international operations and connectivity for secondary airports in India," a flydubai spokesperson told Gulf News in an emailed statement.

According to local reports, flydubai requested the Indian State Government to take up the matter with the Ministry of Civil Aviation to ensure Bhubaneswar was included in the new bilateral agreements between India and the UAE.

Jugal Kishore Mohapatra, Odisha Chief Secretary, reportedly told the airlines every possible effort would be made to ensure international operations from Bhubaneswar would commence as soon as possible.

An Air Arabia spokesperson told Gulf News that Air Arabia "welcomes more flights into new destinations into India as and when approvals come to effect."

While Air Arabia and flydubai are set to wait for new bilateral agreements before they increase their presence in the Indian market, Abu Dhabi flagship carrier Etihad Airways has all but sealed its future with its Jet Airways tie-up approved last week.

The equity stake and partnership in Jet Airways by Etihad will give the airline greater access to a market where the Indian government has previously been labelled as protectionist.

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Publication:Gulf News (United Arab Emirates)
Geographic Code:9INDI
Date:Nov 28, 2013
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