India and Saudi Arabia have amended their air services agreement, allowing an increase in the number of airlines serving the countries and upping the weekly capacity.

Under last week's deal, both sides can "designate any number of airlines as they wish" to operate services, says India's civil aviation ministry. Currently, only Saudi Arabian Airlines and Air India operate services between the two countries.

The capacity for these designated airlines is a maximum of 20,000 seats and 75 services a week, up from 8,500 seats and 31 services a week. Due to the Saudi Arabian government's open skies policy for Dammam, services to the city by Indian airlines will not be counted against their entitlements

Saudi carriers can also operate services to Bangalore, Calicut and Lucknow under the agreement. Previously, they could only fly to Mumbai, New Delhi, Chennai, Cochin and Hyderabad. Indian carriers are allowed to fly to Medina, in addition to Jeddah, Riyadh and Dammam.

The two countries have also agreed to an open skies agreement for all cargo services with full third and fourth freedom traffic rights.

The ministry says that Saudi Arabian Airlines now has 39 weekly services to Indian cities, while Air India has 46 services per week to Saudi Arabia.

"This modernised ASA has the potential to spur greater trade investment, tourism and cultural exchange between the two countries, besides bringing it in tune with the developments in the international civil scenario," adds the ministry.

Source: Air Transport Intelligence news