European countries make a beeline for India’s open skies

Source: HT Business, Nov. 30, 2016

New Delhi: Requests have started pouring in from various European countries for having an open sky agreement with India after the government announced a change of rules in the National Civil Aviation 1Policy (NCAP).

An open sky agreement between two nations allows carriers from respective countries to operate any number of flights to any city in that country. Under the NCAP, India has decided to enter into open skies agreement with SAARC countries and with those beyond 5,000-km radius from Delhi. However, the aviation ministry has restricted the number of stations that a foreign airline can operate in, under this agreement.

“The first request came from Greece, with which we have already signed an agreement. We are also hopeful of having similar agreements with Netherlands and Sweden for which talks have been held. We have also received a request for open skies from Georgia,” said a senior aviation ministry official.

Under the agreement with Greece, while Indian carriers can operate any number of flights to any destination in that country, airlines from that country will be allowed to fly to six Indian cities.

Having an open skies agreement with countries beyond 5000 km radius, a brainchild of aviation secretary RN Choubey, should help significantly enhance India’s international connectivity, say experts.

“There is a huge Indian diaspora in the West. Indian carriers have limited international operations and other than Air India and Jet Airways none operates long haul flights. Removing restrictions on flights from these countries to India will enhance connectivity,” said an expert.

The aviation ministry has through the external affairs ministry written to all countries with which India has bilateral air services agreement informing them about the open skies policy. “Those countries which are beyond 5000 kms are free to come and renegotiate the air services agreement with us,” said a ministry official.

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