New Delhi: India and China have finally agreed to allow designated airlines to fly to each other’s countries and beyond, but only after officials here threatened the visiting civil aviation delegation from Beijing that India was prepared to cancel the entire agreement, according to government officials familiar with the matter who didn’t want to be identified.
The Indian side told their counterparts that if Beijing was not willing to reciprocate the Indian gesture of allowing the Chinese cargo carrier, Great Wall Airlines, to fly to Mumbai and Chennai, it might have to call off the entire exercise.
Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, during his trip to Beijing in January, had overruled bureaucratic objections over alleged safety concerns and agreed to allow Great Wall Airlines to fly to the two cities.
Flight plan: A Jet Airways aircraft. The agreement means that Jet finally gets the right to fly to San Francisco, a lucrative destination for the airline, via Shanghai. (Madhu Kapparath / Mint)
While the quid pro quo was that China would let Jet Airways to fly to San Francisco via China, there hadn’t been any movement on the deal until now.
In two days of talks here, India and China agreed on three designated regions each to serve as “beyond points”, that is, routes on which both carriers could fly beyond the respective countries.
The agreement, for starters, means that Jet finally gets the right to fly to the “beyond point” of San Francisco, a lucrative destination for the airline, via Shanghai.
India and China will now have three regions each that are designated as “beyond points,” with not more than two points in a single region.
Moreover, each country will be allowed to exercise so-called fifth freedom rights to up to 14 frequencies per week on all the “beyond points” put together.
India’s three designated regions are the US and Canada, Australia and New Zealand, and Asia.
In turn, the Chinese side chose Africa, West Asia (including the Gulf region), and Europe.
Saroj Datta, executive director of Jet who participated in the two-day talks, said Jet will await the Indian government’s final approval before starting flights, possibly around mid-year. In February 2007, Jet got the approval to fly to the US West Coast, but needed specified approval for San Francisco from the civil aviation ministry.
Ahead of its flights to the US West Coast though, Jet is starting daily flights between Mumbai and Hong Kong from mid-April followed by Delhi-Hong Kong a few weeks later.
Meanwhile, both National Aviation Co. of India Ltd-run Air India and UB Group-owned Kingfisher Airlines Ltd, the other two companies who can fly international routes from India, have plans to connect the lucrative Bangalore-San Francisco route with non-stop flights, instead of one-stop flights, as they induct long haul aircraft this year.