In a fallout between authorities in India and its air-bubble partner Germany, the European country’s national carrier Lufthansa said Tuesday 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 said that Lufthansa 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 14 countries, including Germany.
“Lufthansa sincerely urges the Indian authorities to work together with the German government in order to establish a temporary travel agreement between both countries. Such an agreement is necessary to address the urgent need of tens of thousands of Indians and foreign nationals for travel to and from India and would also help balance the interests of both countries’ airlines,” a Lufthansa spokesperson said.
“This appeal follows the unexpected rejection of Lufthansa’s planned flight schedule for October by Indian authorities. Lufthansa had applied for the continuation of special flights it was granted to operate until the end of September. This application process is necessary since India has so far not accepted the invitation by the German government to discuss details regarding a temporary travel agreement between both countries,” the airline said.
A senior government official said one of the main reasons 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 formally asked European airlines to stop sixth-freedom flights.
India’s aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation said the country had formalised an air-bubble with Germany in July this year. “However, 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,” the DGCA said.
Lufthansa said it had scheduled flights for October to continue connecting Delhi, Mumbai and Bengaluru with Europe and other regions in its worldwide network. “The October schedule would also have seen the addition of flights to and from Chennai,” the airline said.
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