NEW DELHI: Indian globetrotters will soon have more flight options from the increasingly popular and affordable Chinese carriers, and the widely-networked Turkish Airlines.
Countries such as China and Turkey have long been demanding more bilateral to India as they have exhausted their existing flying rights. But this was not being allowed so far on the grounds that Indian carriers were not using a significant part of bilateral in terms of flying to those countries.
“It has now been decided that in such cases we will enhance bilateral by linking the hike to the growth in air traffic between India and that country. For instance if air traffic was growing at average 7% per annum in past three years between India and a country, then bilateral can be hiked at double of that growth rate — for example 14% — in such cases,” said a senior aviation ministry official.
The CAG has questioned Congress-led UPA’s liberal grant of flying rights to many countries, especially in the Gulf. The Modi government has been very careful in increasing bilateral and does so only if Indian carriers have utilised 80% of their flying rights to a country. This informal rule was affecting the air traffic growth to places like China — from where several airlines fly to India but among domestic players only Air India flies to — and Turkey — where no Indian airline goes as of now. The lop-sided utilisation of flying rights was preventing India from increasing bilateral of countries like these. Chinese carriers such as China
Southern, China Eastern and Air China have been offering among the lowest fares to connecting passengers travelling between India and places such as the west coast of America. Mainly because of cost factor, they have become a big hit with the budget-conscious Indian traveller. “Under current Sino-Indian bilateral agreements, airlines of both sides can operate 10,000 weekly seats on 42 frequencies.
While Chinese carriers are utilising this fully, India uses only 1,280 seats on the five flights that AI operates every week to Shanghai,” said a senior official.