Bilateral flying rights may become a ‘thing of the past’

In order to promote domestic air carriers on international routes, the Indian authorities may stop providing flying rights to foreign carriers. According to a statement by Jyotiraditya Scindia (Minister of Civil Aviation), there’s going to be an ‘explosion of air traffic in India’ in the near future. He also pointed out that India is asking aerospace companies to step up local production and will soon finalise rules to safeguard the rights of lessors (companies that lease jets to others) on repossessions of jets, in a bid to level up with major global aviation markets.

On its journey to become a logistics hub of the world, India’s civil aviation segment currently stands at the third position globally, and could possibly become the largest by the end of the decade. Scindia said that India’s airplane fleet will grow to over 2,000 planes from the current 700 on the back of increased passenger traffic. Passenger traffic through 6 major metros is expected to more than double to 420 million over the next 5 years

Bilateral Air Services Agreements decide the number of flights that can operate between two countries – either limited to a certain number or be given unlimited access. Currently, India’s agreements with other countries, except the USA and the UK, have limited the number of flights. As far as the UK and USA are concerned, the Agreements prescribe open skies with both.

Requests by foreign airlines for greater seats and flights used to be approved earlier, but haven’t been entertained since 2014. This was because the government wanted to promote Indian airlines on international routes, especially for long haul flights to the USA and Europe.

The record number of planes placed on an order by the Tata group-owned Air India has turned the attention of global carriers on the Indian market, who are now demanding extra ‘flying rights’ in the market. Air India’s order of 70 long-haul aircraft and Indigo’s testing of leased long-haul planes shows the eagerness of the industry to grab the aforesaid opportunity.

The government also wishes to build a global airline brand from India, which is a matter of great pride and a tool of India’s soft power. For both passenger and cargo movement, the decision may initially mean a rise in the cost of flying, however, as the fleet expands, the prices shall automatically simmer down.

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