The Cabinet on Tuesday approved the India-Abu Dhabi bilateral air services agreement enabling their airlines to fly 50,000 seats each week, up from the current level of 13,700.

The agreement, which had run into a controversy, received post-facto approval of the Union Cabinet at a meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi. The agreement would allow the designated carriers of India and Abu Dhabi to have 50,000 seat capacity each week. This increase of 36,670 seats would be carried out in a phased manner spread over a three-year period. While an additional 11,000 seats per week would be added to the existing 13,700 this year, another 12,800 seats per week would be added in 2014 and 12,870 more in 2015.

A number of MPs from various parties had objected to the massive enhancement in bilateral air traffic rights which had followed the signing of the Rs. 2,058 crore Jet-Etihad deal under which the latter would pick up 24 per cent equity stake in Jet Airways. Leaders including Jaswant Singh, Nishikant Dubey (both BJP), Dinesh Trivedi (TMC), Gurudas Dasgupta (CPI) and Subramanian Swamy (BJP), had shot off letters to the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on the issue.

Following the objections, the Prime Minister had asked the Civil Aviation Ministry on June 13 to revise the Cabinet note on the matter by making modifications to address the concerns flagged by these politicians. On June 29, the Jet-Etihad deal got the approval of the Foreign Investment Promotion Board (FIPB) with riders to maintain effective Indian control over Jet.

A bilateral air services agreement between two countries allows their designated airlines to operate and later increase or decrease the number of flights operating between them, the number of seats to be flown per week and even the aircraft type.