Aviation Ministry opens 11 new routes to Air India, private airlines

Aviation Ministry opens 11 new routes to Air India, private airlines
New Delhi:  Heeding to the demands of private airlines, the government on Friday announced 11 new international routes which will allow them and the state-run Air India to further expand their global network.

The sectors opened up are Mumbai-Dar-es-Salaam, Delhi- Guangzhou, Delhi-Yangon, Delhi-Tashkent, Delhi-Ho-Chi-Minh City, Delhi-Hanoi, Delhi-Almaty, Delhi-Macao, Delhi-Addis Ababa, Delhi-Melbourne and Delhi-Sydney, officials said.

Private airlines had been asking the government to open up international routes under the bilateral Air Services Agreements (ASAs) between India and various countries, on which Air India so far had the first right to operate.

The decision to allow all Indian scheduled carriers to use the air traffic rights under the existing ASAs, was taken after Civil Aviation Minister Ajit Singh reviewed their utilisation, officials said.

With this decision, the international services of Air India and Air India Express would rise from 430 flights per week now to 471 each week this summer. Similarly, the number of global flights of all private carriers would also go up.

The private airlines would continue to operate on these international sectors till such time they reach the maximum permissible limit under ASAs, which fix the number of flights and seats to be operated each week by the designated carriers of each country, they said.

In order to safeguard the interests of Air India, which enjoyed the first right of refusal on these routes, the Ministry decided that the national carrier's operational plan would receive due consideration in allocation of the traffic rights and entitlements.

The private carriers have also been allocated specific number of flights and seats on international routes they would be able to operate this summer and winter.

Official sources said SpiceJet would run 98 services per week in summer and 188 in winter, while Jet Airways will get to run 102 weekly services in summer and 200 in winter.

No-frill carrier IndiGo would fly 84 services per week in summer and 125 per week in winter.

The sources said these flights would be in addition to their existing allocation.

Air India and AI Express would increase their services from 94 to 109 on the Dubai sector, from 39 to 47 in Abu Dhabi sector, 33 to 49 services in Sharjah sector, 12 to 21 in Doha sector and 42 to 48 in the Saudi Arabia sector.

The services of government-owned carriers would increase from 471 flights per week in summer to 577 in winter.

The Ministry's move to liberalise the bilateral ASAs would ameliorate the already stressed sector and make air travel more affordable to people, an official statement said.

Last month, the Ministry had decided to allow all domestic carriers to use bilateral air traffic rights to fly to foreign countries, bringing cheer to private operators who had been demanding permission to fly overseas routes, which under the existing policy were first offered to Air India.

However, Air India had been able to use only about 30-35 per cent of the total bilateral traffic rights available with India due to financial and aircraft constraints.

The Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) had in a recent report recommended that all decisions to allot domestic and international routes must be made taking into account Air India's interests.

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