Dubai, July 1 (PTI): India and Kuwait on Saturday night reached an agreement on resolving a dispute on air traffic rights, over which the gulf state had threatened to stop Indian national carriers flying there from today.
Just before the expiry of the deadline, an MoU was signed by the civil aviation authorities of the two countries after a marathon negotiations lasting three days, Indian ambassador to Kuwait M Ganapathi said.
The talks continued for the third day on Saturday to find an amicable solution to the crisis after a high-level Indian delegation extended its stay in Kuwait in last-ditch efforts.
Airline sources said here that India has agreed to allow Kuwait carriers to operate flights to Hyderabad, Bangalore and Kolkata and also agreed to marginal increase in seat capacity.
The sources said they would operate the flights from Kuwait as scheduled and there are no flight cancellations.
The agreement, reached between the Kuwait and Indian governments, would be a relief to thousands of passengers, booked on both Indian and Kuwait airlines, ending the uncertainty over their travel plans.
The spat began when Kuwait decided to stop Indian carriers from flying into the country from July 1. In a bid to break the deadlock, a high-level Indian delegation comprising civil aviation ministry joint secretary R K Singh and representatives of A-I and IA arrived in Kuwait on Thursday.
A bilateral agreement was signed between India and Kuwait last year allowing 5,200 seats per week for both. Kuwait has urged to raise the limit and requested that its carriers be allowed to pick up passengers from third nations.
While Kuwait Airways and Al-Jazeera operate daily flights to India, Air India and Indian Airlines maintain a total of seven flights per week out of Kuwait.
The main concern of the Indian Civil Aviation ministry was Jazeera's low fares, as it offers fares ranging from Rs 4000-12,000 on the Mumbai-Dubai sector while fares of Air India Express start at around Rs 7000.
NEW DELHI, Jul 1: In good news for passengers scheduled to travel to and from the Gulf, Kuwait's threat of snapping air links with India from Sunday could well blow over. And for once, India stuck to its stand and realising that, Kuwait is reliably learnt to have agreed to a "watered down" version of its demands.
After three rounds of bilateral talks, the agreed terms were — 4,000 additional seats a week on direct flights alone for airlines of Kuwait over the current figure of 8,000 and right to operate to Hyderabad and Kolkata from this summer and Bangalore from winter.
The Kuwaiti foreign office is learnt to have told its equivalent of DGCA that the notification for not allowing Indian carriers to land there from Sunday will be withdrawn the minute the deal is inked, something expected to happen on Saturday night. India has "strongly recorded that the unilateral threat of stopping flights was contrary to the spirit of bilaterals and that its delegation went for talks to avoid that situation". By Saturday, Kuwait was learnt to be working on the draft of the agreement.
"They were asking for the weekly seats to be increased to 50,000 from the current 8,000. It was made clear that this demand and also for having more flights to and from India via Dubai was simply not acceptable. On Friday evening, they agreed to the figure of 12,000 but with a condition that another round of bilateral be held in mid-July for increasing seats again. This was also turned down and then on Saturday a consensus was reached,'' said the official. The next bilaterals would now be held "as and when necessary" without giving any dates.
With India agreeing to adding Hyderabad and Kolkata to the list of six stations where airlines of Kuwait operate, the number of cities goes up to eight. Jazeera Airways (Kuwait's first private LCC) and Kuwait Airways operate flights to Cochin, Thiruvananthapuram, Chennai, Mumbai, Delhi and Ahmedabad.