NEW DELHI: Tensions over plans to transform Air India into a global airline with hundreds of new jets rippled across the aviation sector on Tuesday as foreign carriers clamoured for more access to the world’s fastest-growing economy.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government faces growing demands to ease a near-freeze on capacity that can be deployed on many routes to and from India, now that India’s flag carrier has been sold to the cash-rich Tata conglomerate.

Current limits on the amount of flying allowed between India and many markets date back to heavy losses at Air India around the beginning of the last decade, analysts said.

But a huge overhaul of the airline, including the world’s largest ever plane order for 470 jets, rekindled a debate over market access at a New Delhi aviation conference on Tuesday.

Dubai’s Emirates, Turkish Airlines and Kuwaiti carrier Jazeera Airways all called for sharp increases in traffic rights to and from India to meet demand. Vietnam and Indonesia also want more flights, an Indian official said.

“We are not getting enough share from this market,” Turkish Airlines Chief Executive Bilal Eksi told the CAPA India conference. Dubai has requested an extra 50,000 seats a week on India routes.

But in an exclusive interview, India’s civil aviation minister told Reuters the government is not currently looking at easing curbs. He urged Indian airlines to order more big jets to meet demand without forcing passengers to change planes.

“I think it’s about time that our carriers looked at the international market with greater focus. That’s what we are pushing the airlines to do and that process has already started,” Jyotiraditya Scindia said.


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