International flight rights for Indian airlines: The privatized Air India loses its preferred status

NEW DELHI: The privatized Air India will no longer have priority when it comes to obtaining international flight rights under India’s bilateral deals with other countries and all Indian airlines will now stand on the same footing.
The Directorate-General for Civil Aviation (DGCA) has revised the guidelines in this regard, removing the clause intended for the former state-owned Maharajah: “Prior to the allocation of traffic, due consideration shall be given to the operational plans submitted by Air India to the other entitled rights.” Applicant.”
The regulator on April 19, 2022 issued the revised rules for issuing international scheduled flight permits to Indian airlines, which can qualify after meeting the 0/20 requirement – ​​no limitation on years of operation, but with a minimum of 20 aircraft in the fleet.
The Tatas acquired AI and AI Express three months ago. Alliance Air, which will soon be privatized as an all-turboprop fleet.
Given the poor financial health of most Indian airlines, underutilization of the flight rights granted to them has been a common phenomenon in recent years.
If airlines wishing to add flights approached the Department to do so, first approval would be obtained from AI if it planned to operate on that particular route(s).
“This used to delay the whole process and compounded the problem of airlines underusing flight rights at the expense of those who could have,” insiders said.
Demand for international flight rights will soon increase as Tata, Air India and AI Express are expected to add international routes.
IndiGo had major international expansion plans as of mid-2024.
Billionaire investor Rakesh Jhunjhunwala’s burgeoning Akasa hopes to have a fleet of 20 aircraft by next year, at which point it will seek international flight rights. So the move comes just ahead of the expected spike in demand.
In this situation, the only requirement is that the airlines exercise the desired flight rights and are not left without operating flights.
‘The traffic rights allocated to an airline for a given scheduling period are fully used by it during the same scheduling period. Otherwise, at the end of the scheduling period for which they were allocated, the unused rights revert to the Department of Aviation, which is free to reallocate to other airlines. The defaulting airline can also re-apply if it so chooses, but its priority in rights allocation will be considered the lowest among all applicants,” the guidelines read.
Where airlines request routes beyond the services permitted by bilateral agreements or Air Transport Agreements (ASA) between India and the destination country, preference will be given to flights connecting small towns directly to overseas destinations. “If the available traffic rights are insufficient to meet the requirements specified in the applications, the allocation will be made first to meet the requirements contained in an application to operate from a non-metro airport…”

Cheryl Tenny

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