The air transport agreement between India and the UK has a different structure, with flight quotas based on destinations. Under an open sky agreement signed in 2017, there are no restrictions on flights between Indian cities except for Bengaluru and Hyderabad, where capacity is capped at 14 flights per week.
However, for flights between Delhi, Mumbai and Heathrow, the current capacity of 56 flights per week will be increased to 70. This extension of the agreement became necessary because British airlines such as British Airways and Virgin Atlantic had reached their quota and were no longer able to launch new flights. Currently, British Airways operates 54 flights per week connecting Mumbai and Delhi to London, while Virgin Atlantic operates 42 flights per week.
British Airways CEO Sean Doyle stressed earlier this year the importance of keeping up with growing demand. He had told ET that flight capacity to Mumbai and Delhi is subject to the air transport agreement. “I think as demand grows it is very important that policymakers keep pace with it. “Ultimately, we should have liberalized air transport agreements to allow the development of direct services,” he had said.
Likewise, a Virgin Atlantic spokesperson acknowledged the strong demand from India to the UK and expressed its intention to cater to diverse segments such as leisure travelers, business travelers, students and visiting friends and relatives.
While Indian airlines such as Air India and Vistara are currently operating flights from Delhi and Mumbai to London, they are facing restrictions due to limited slots at Heathrow Airport. According to the report, Indian airlines have requested government intervention to secure additional slots as they intend to benefit from the new agreement.
However, Airport Coordination Limited, the authority responsible for slot allocation at UK airports, clarified that the slot allocation process is independent of bilateral agreements between countries.
Richard Cann, Head of Coordination at ACL, said: “London Heathrow is historically full with the air traffic cap fully allocated and, due to the shortage, the number of slots returning to the pool for reallocation is extremely limited. Where.” There are no slots available at London Heathrow, we encourage applications at other London airports and in recent years we have seen Indian airlines flying to London Gatwick and London Stansted.”
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