US Department of Transport moves to regulate Air India’s US Charter operations

The U.S. Government has moved forward to restrict Vande Bharat flights being operated by Air India to and from the United States of America, as they notice unfair and discriminatory practices with respect to US Carriers on the Indian side.

The US DoT order, issued overnight, states that the GoI has imposed restrictions that prevent US air carriers from making use of their charter rights. Essentially, the GoI has prevented US Carriers from conducting India – US passenger charter operations.

The language is scathing,

In this regard, we note that Air India has been conducting self-described “evacuation” charters (i.e., repatriation charters), between India and the United States in both directions since May 18, 2020. On May 19, 2020, an official from the Department advised Air India of the Department’s concerns that some, if not all, of Air India’s so-called evacuation charters have gone beyond true evacuations (at least on the India to the United States segments) and involved sales to any member of the general public able to enter the United States. On May 26, 2020, Delta Air Lines, Inc. (“Delta”), via letter, requested permission from the Indian Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) to perform repatriation charter services similar to those provided by Air India. To date, Delta has not received approval to perform the requested repatriation charters.

This restrictive and discriminatory treatment of U.S. carriers as regards charters has important implications in the area of scheduled operations as well. On March 25, 2020, the GoI suspended all scheduled passenger services in response to public health threats. On June 3, 2020, Air India released a schedule for additional repatriation flights that includes 49 U.S.-India round-trip charter flights that are scheduled to operate between June 10-July 1, 2020. On June 13, Air India released a schedule for 10 additional repatriation flights between June 20-July 3, 2020. Prior to the March 25th suspension of scheduled passenger services, Air India operated 34 round-trip flights per week to the United States. With 59 flights advertised for the period from June 10 to July 3, 2020, Air India would be performing charter operation at a rate of 53% of the operations it previously performed as scheduled services. As such, it appears that Air India may be using its passenger repatriation charters as a way of circumventing the GoI-imposed prohibition of all scheduled services. This situation, in which Indian airlines are permitted to perform services pursuant to their rights under the Agreement while U.S. carriers are not, creates a competitive disadvantage for U.S. carriers vis-à-vis Indian carriers, in contravention of the fair and equal opportunity to compete provision of Article 11 of the Agreement.

The US DoT states that the US Government first registered its objections with the Government of India via the US Embassy New Delhi on May 28, 2020, but the government of India has failed to remedy the situation so far.

The view of the US DoT is, that they will now scrutinize each and every flight to be operated between India and USA operated by Air India, and authorise them on a case-by-case basis. Air India will need to file applications for each flight at least 30 calendar days before the proposed charter flight going forward.

Bottomline

This move should put an end to the unilateral one-sided operations being made by Air India between India and the United States. It might mean that either Air India will also stop operating more charter flights to the USA after this current bout of 59 flights, or it might also allow Delta and United to start charter flights to India. Either way, this is a poor show on the Indian side which had to be served a US DoT order to jolt them back into the reality that their operations are one-sided and do not reflect the true nature of a market where competition is allowed to thrive.

This is not the first time Air India has become a tool to implement the requirements of a competitive agreement. The US DoT had, last year also issued an order on Air India’s US operations when the US carriers were not being allowed to do their own ground handling in India.

What do you make of the US DoT order, and will it tip the hand of India to open up international aviation as people have been clamouring for? 

(HT: @KaranAtALounge, @WandrMe)


Liked our articles and our efforts? Please pay an amount you are comfortable with; an amount you believe is the fair price for the content you have consumed. Please enter an amount in the box below and click on the button to pay; you can use Netbanking, Debit/Credit Cards, UPI, QR codes, or any Wallet to pay. Every contribution helps cover the cost of the content generated for your benefit.

(Important: to receive confirmation and details of your transaction, please enter a valid email address in the pop-up form that will appear after you click the ‘Pay Now’ button. Even though the amount you enter has to be in INR, you may use an international card to process the transaction.)

We are not putting our articles behind any paywall where you are asked to pay before you read an article. We are asking you to pay after you have read the article if you are satisfied with the quality and our efforts.

Comments

  1. Not only monopoly in fare but also in hotel industries in delhi, & other local cities, by compulsary quarantine for 14 days

  2. Finally! My family has been split between India and the US for the past 3 months. Hope commercial flights start soon.

  3. Finally, MoCA con has been called.
    They have been trying to find every loophole in the name of COVID. Hopefully there are no kickbacks involved.
    Selling tickets at 6 times the price, while the fuel cost is at 1/4th the pre COVID price.
    The liquor store opening is ok but totally controlled international flights are a risk, what a sham.
    Mr Puri seems to have a pre Manmohanomic era, specializing in control politics to benefit a handful of people. Shame……..

  4. The U.S. Government has moved forward to restrict Vande Bharat flights being operated by Air India to and from the United States of America, as they notice unfair and discriminatory practices with respect to US Carriers on the Indian side.

    The US DoT order, issued overnight, states that the GoI has imposed restrictions that prevent US air carriers from making use of their charter rights. Essentially, the GoI has prevented US Carriers from conducting India – US passenger charter operations.

  5. Gujaraties very very good in money making, they go any extend to make gains, now they are in process of making Air India profitable by fooling international fair play.

  6. You all respected brothers are saying true air india is looting indians in the name of vande bharat mission no shame to say “it matam bharat mission” shame upon indian policy.Loot under the name of patriotisam.

  7. Air India has been using unfair practices for over two months monopolising the skies and charging 3 to 4 times the normal fares. They are squeezing the pockets of poor amassing huge profits. They better shape up or get banned.
    I hope that the Aviation Minister’s head is bent in shame. Not only he has ruined and hurt India’s reputation but also squeezed Indians by charging three times the regular airfares. He should refund the extra money charged. He should resign from bringing us shame and humiliation in the eyes of the world.

  8. We are at the other end are one of the sufferers. I with my wife came to US in the month of December 2019 to spend some time with our son but unfortunately we couldn’t return to India due to lockdown and flight cancellations by Air India on the date of our return I.e. on 2nd April 2020
    Since then the Air India is refusing to Refund the cost of cancelled tickets. Now they are giving lot of lame excuses and trying to push back our grievance for Refund. Government of India and Aviation Ministry are not doing justice by doing so. They must be brought to book.

  9. All international carriers should be allowed to operate as usual with proper protocol. The airlines have already started booking in anticipation. The quarantine package should be replaced with home quarantine and monitoring mechanisms like Arogya Setu. The cost is unreasonable in view of monopoly.

  10. Indian govt is so unfair in not allowing flights from other carriers when itself flying to multiple countires under the guise of reparation flights and charge helfy amounts for just one way tickets. They should allow other carriers to offer the same and help reparate foreign national stuck in india. They did allow a few flights but they have closed their airspace to all international passenger air traffic. I hope they open it up so ticket prices can go down and are more affordable for people waiting to go back to their country of residence.

  11. What about vande mataram mission 4th phase? Whether it operating in USA? in July?. If not what is alternately solution for stranded Indian people?

    • KLM and AIR FRANCE have been operating services via their hub for some time now though not on regular basis.
      I understand LUFTAHANSA is planning to start some services as well. Please check LUFTAHANSA site.

  12. This is just stupid and very much expected from the Trump government.

    Govt of India is operating charter flights and of course it is using its own carrier Air India to run its operations as far as possible, along with other Indian carriers. I dont see anything wrong with that. And it is offering public tickets to fly back on what would be empty onward journey.

    If the US govt wants to control inbound flights from India for some reason they are more than welcome to do so. Though requiring 30days advance notice for government sponsored repatriation flights is a joke. I dont see why they would need 30days. Should be cleared within a couple of days notice.

    If American Airlines are want to also operate similar charter flights to repatriate Indian citizens or PIO card holders back to India, they are free to do so as well with appropriate permissions.

    This has happened in a number of cases. I know for a fact that my home state of Odisha has received charter flights organised by local groups in Gulf countries who wanted to fly people back outside of Vande Bharat flights, and have chartered planes from Etihad and Air Arabia. These flights received permission to land in India through the help of local governments and associations securing permissions for the same.

    If American Airline companies operate such flights, I am sure India would have no objections to them selling public tickets for what would be empty return flights back to the USA.

    • Please read the order again and what follows till you understand it. It’s the stupidity of the GOI, not the US…

    • Please make sure you read and understand the order before commenting. Everyone is not rich like the Ambanis and what the Indian government is doing is not right.

  13. Absolutely right thing to do. Charging 1lac fare. Poor food. Pathetic website. One sided operation in the name of reparation for what. Why don’t they just international operation. Whats the point. Covid anyway rising and going towards 5lac.

    • Air India has been using unfair practices for over two months monopolising the skies and charging 3 to 4 times the normal fares. They are squeezing the pockets of poor amassing huge profits. They better shape up or get banned.
      I hope that the Aviation Minister’s head is bent in shame. Not only he has ruined and hurt India’s reputation but also squeezed Indians by charging three times the regular airfares. He should refund the extra money charged. He should resign from bringing us shame and humiliation in the eyes of the world.

  14. Good! We should have International flights open up within a month!! Air India had a good run while it lasted!!

  15. Seriously hoping that the UK CAA also issues a similar notice to GOI and AI.
    Indian Civil Aviation minister keeps harping that they can start scheduled International operations only when other countries open their borders to accept passenger. UK has never closed its borders (since Covid-19) So why cant British carriers operate passenger flights To/Fro India?

    This seems like Govt Of India’s sneaky plan to increase Air India’s revenues in the name of evacuation flights and expensive one way only fares.

    • True, AI is trying to sneakily recoup its losses through repatriation flights, charging inflated fares to customers.
      And minister Puri says AI is first class asset but nobody wants to invest!! Ha ha

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *