India, South Korea in talks to enhance bilateral air rights

  • India currently has bilateral air service agreements with 116 countries.
  • Air traffic between India and South Korea has more than doubled at 54,174 passengers in Jan-Mar compared with 20,378 passengers a year ago, DGCA data shows

Anu Sharma
Updated18 Jun 2024, 07:32 PM IST
Air traffic between India and South Korea has grown strongly since covid restrictions eased.
Air traffic between India and South Korea has grown strongly since covid restrictions eased.(Reuters)

New Delhi: India and South Korea have begun talks to enhance rights under their existing bilateral air service agreement, two officials aware of the development said.

A bilateral air service agreement gives certain rights to countries, such as use of airspace and airports by their airlines. But it also puts a limit on the number of seats and flights. 

India has bilateral air service agreements with 116 countries. 

The air service agreement between India and South Korea has remained unchanged since 2015 when the capacity entitlement for both countries was increased from six flights per week to 19.

“India and Republic of Korea are assessing the current flight limitations under the bilateral air service agreement between the two countries. We are working with them with an intent to increase the permitted number of flights from both sides,” said one of the officials cited above.

Also read |  Modi 3.0 may increase quota for foreign flights

Air traffic between India and South Korea has shown strong growth since the easing of covid-related restrictions in March 2022. As per the latest data from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, air traffic between the two countries has more than doubled to 54,174 passengers in Jan-Mar as compared with 20,378 passengers a year ago. 

In the same time period, total international traffic to and from India grew 18% to 17.9 million passengers.

“The enhancement of bilateral air rights in 2015 took place after two rounds of inconclusive discussions. So, we will see how it goes (this time around)," the other official said. 

"Discussions are taking place on increasing points of call, the number of flights between two countries, and to establish an all-cargo route structure for scheduled airlines.” 

Also read | Indian Airlines face bigger losses in FY25 despite higher demand: CAPA India

As per data for the March quarter, Delhi-Seoul is the only direct scheduled service between the two countries with non-stop flights by Air India and Korean Air. 

Seoul remains a popular point to connect on the network plan for other Indian airlines as well. Before merger with Air India, Vistara had plans to launch flights to Seoul. IndiGo is eyeing Seoul as a destination once it receives the long-range Airbus A321XLR by next year.

India-UAE agreement being assessed

The civil aviation ministry is also assessing the bilateral air service agreement with the UAE, but this is more complicated on account of mixed feedback from Indian airlines.

Domestic carriers have been divided over allowing foreign carriers, especially from West Asia, more access to India, the fastest growing aviation market of the world.

“Airlines from the UAE have been quite persistent regarding demand for enhancement of bilateral air service agreement to include more seats, especially on India-Dubai route. 

But they also understand our resistance at the moment. We know that there are new airlines, who want a share of the bilateral air rights too. We are looking into this and will accommodate them wherever there is scope,” the first official added.

Also read |  Tax issues may force airlines to exit India: IATA DG

New airlines such as Akasa Air, with over 200 aircraft on order, seek an extension of bilateral on exhausted but lucrative markets such as Dubai. But older carriers with renewed ambitions have been concerned over liberal extension of agreements, fearing foreign carriers, which have more wide-body planes used on international flights, may end up benefiting more. 

Since 2023, Air India and IndiGo have placed orders for more than 1,400 aircraft and both have spoken of plans to bring Indian airlines on the global map with widespread connectivity.


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First Published:18 Jun 2024, 07:32 PM IST
HomeIndustryIndia, South Korea in talks to enhance bilateral air rights

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