‘No bilaterals till Indian carriers use up quota’

The government has decided not to sign any more Air Services Agreement (ASA) with other nations till Indian carriers exhaust their quota under the existing agreements. ASA decides the quota of seat allocation to airlines from other countries.

"Bilateral, by definition, means both sides and unless our carriers exhaust the quota allocated to them, there is no need for signing new ones," civil aviation minister Ajit Singh told The Indian Express.

India has signed ASAs with over 109 countries and there are 8,34,000 weekly seats available on international air routes. Indian carriers utilise 22.7 per cent of the quota available, which will increase to 40 per cent after IndiGo, SpiceJet and Jet Airways start flights to new short-haul and long-haul international destinations.

International carriers have been able to utilise a large part of their bilateral entitlements, way ahead of Indian carriers, on routes to Oman (100 per cent), Dubai (99 per cent), Sharjah (93 per cent), Malaysia (86 per cent), Thailand (77 per cent), Singapore (72 per cent) and Malaysia (86 per cent).

This temporary freeze on new ASA is likely to ground plans of airlines like Emirates, which has exhausted their quota and is pushing for an increase in the quota between India and Dubai.

However, analysts feel that this freeze is not going to solve any purpose and the government should not take any call on bilaterals till they have a long-term plan for aviation in India.

"Waiting for Indian carriers to utilise unused bilaterals is not convincing argument," said Kapil Kaul, CEO (Indian sub-continent) Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.

He added that India needs a transparent rules and objectives while giving bilateral rights.

"We cannot continue with the present ad hoc system for bilateral allocation."

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