Qatar Airways may soon be making deeper inroads into India, under a new bilateral air service agreement that would significantly up its weekly seat capacity to the country, theEconomic Times reports.

Quoting an unnamed Indian civil aviation official, the India-based newspaper said that negotiations for the exact number of increased seats is wrapping up, and that the pact should be completed “soon.”

Qatar’s national carrier, which flies to a dozen Indian cities, currently has a weekly seat quota of 24,800, which it regularly meets, the report said. It is now seeking an increase to 72,600 seats, which if granted would place the airline ahead of its regional competitors, ET added.

The deal would mesh well with the opening of Qatar’s new Hamad International Airport and could net the airline some $200 million over 10 years, Arabian Business adds.

The relaxing of restrictions on the Gulf carrier comes at a time when India’s airlines struggle with huge financial losses, and as competition increases for the Indian market in the GCC.

Competition

According to Gulf Business, a weakening rupee is driving domestic fares up, but competition between local and regional airlines is concurrently forcing them down.

Meanwhile, earlier this month, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad won approval from the Indian government to acquire a 24 percent stake in Jet Airways. The CEO of Etihad, whose seat capacity was raised from 13,000 to 49,000 seats weekly around the same time period, said of the deal:

“India is one of the largest and fastest-growing markets in the world and a key part of the Etihad Airways growth strategy.”

The move comes after the UAE pledged to spend some $50 billion on India’s infrastructure sectors in the coming years, Arabian Business reports.

Qatar Airways has previously said it is not interested in investing in Indian airlines, but ET reports that the carrier is in talks to find a code-share partner, and may sponsor Air India’s entry into the oneworld alliance.

In Qatar’s case, the seat allowance increase is thought to have been propelled by a deal to lower the price of LNG to India.

source: dohanews