India’s air transport bubble with Germany has been suspended after the European country prohibited national carrier Air India from flying to its airports, a senior government official told The Indian Express. The ban succeeded the Indian side asking Lufthansa to curtail its schedule, which led to the airline cancelling its flights to India till October 20.
Air India, too, has consequently cancelled its flights to Frankfurt from Delhi. “All our flights to and from Frankfurt had to be cancelled due to withdrawal of permission by the German authorities. 10 flights on the Delhi-Frankfurt sector and two between Delhi and Bangalore will not operate now till 14th October,” an Air India spokesperson said.
An e-mail query sent to Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transport and Digital Infrastructure did not elicit a response.
On Tuesday, Lufthansa had said that it will have to cancel all planned flights between India and Germany between September 30 and October 20 because of an “unexpected rejection” of its flight schedule by Indian authorities. The Indian side had responded to Lufthansa’s announcement by saying that the airline was offered a curtailed schedule to mitigate the disadvantage being faced by Indian carriers due to inequitable distribution of traffic in favour of Lufthansa.
The German carrier said in a statement that it had applied for continuation of special flights it was allowed to operate until end of September, but will now have to cancel the flights. International passenger flights have been suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus lockdown. However, special flights have been permitted under air bubble arrangements, which India has entered into with 16 countries, including Germany.
A senior government official said that one of the main reasons for behind the action was European carriers operating sixth-freedom flights by carrying passengers from India to North American destinations and not allowing Air India to do the same. The sixth freedom of flying — which lets an airline to fly passengers from one country to a hub in its home country and from there to a third country — is not allowed under air bubble arrangements. Earlier this month, the Centre had formally asked European airlines to stop their sixth-freedom flights.
In its statement the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had said: “…there are restrictions in place for Indian nationals desiring to travel to Germany which was putting Indian carriers at a significant disadvantage resulting in inequitable distribution of traffic in favour of Lufthansa,” the DGCA stated. “As against Indian carriers operating 3-4 flights a week, Lufthansa operated 20 flights a week. In spite of this disparity we offered to clear 7 flights a week for Lufthansa which was not accepted by them. Negotiations continue,” it added.