The Union government has refused to bring the Chandigarh airport under the Open Sky Policy of ASEAN nations. Meanwhile, majority airlines in a meeting have told the Centre say they don’t find operating international flights from here feasible.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation on Wednesday told the Punjab and Haryana High Court that considering various implications of any addition, deletion or substitution in the list of 18 tourist destinations covered under the Open Sky Policy, it would not be advisable to make any changes in the existing list. It has also been said that new interior points are not being granted to foreign carriers now.
The court had in December 2019 directed the stakeholders — Ministry of Civil Aviation, Governments of Punjab and Haryana, AAI & CHIAL — to hold a meeting at the top level to consider adding Chandigarh to the list, keeping in view the passenger traffic at the existing 18 destinations while comparing them to Chandigarh. The court had been told that certain existing destinations in the list may not even be workable for international traffic.
As per the meeting held at the Centre regarding the suggestion to include Chandigarh airport under the ASEAN policy, it was concluded that any bilateral Air Services Agreements (ASA) are negotiated with a foreign country on the basis of reciprocity and balance of benefits, adding that such negotiations are undertaken in context of the overall policy framework and not regarding any particular airport in India.
It has also been said that already a significant imbalance exists currently in favour of foreign carriers in the matter of points of call — a term referring to an airport where the foreign airline can arrive or depart from — adding that the same has attracted adverse comments from the CAG and is also under the scrutiny of investigating agencies.
“Any substitution in the list of 18 destinations will have to be…weighed in terms of its value and reciprocal benefits to the Indian side. The list of 18 destinations has already been incorporated in the bilateral ASAs with all the ASEAN and SAARC countries and any change will required mutual agreement after bilateral negotiations,” read the minutes.
The Centre said any deletion from the list of 18 destinations will have repercussions as far as state government is concerned. “…it would be better to encourage Indian carriers to start international flights from Chandigarh. Additionally, it was also observed that designated airlines of USA and UK had access to any point in India under respective bilaterals and therefore, they could also undertake operations to Chandigarh,” said the reply, adding that a decision has been taken to hold a meeting with them.
GoAir says YES, others say NO Chandigarh International Airport Limited Chief Executive Officer Ajay Kumar on Wednesday informed the Punjab and Haryana High Court that representatives of GoAir have offered to start one international flight between Chandigarh and Thailand and an email was sent to the airline Feb 15 asking it to submit the offer letter to facilitate the grant of desired slots in Chandigarh. The response is awaited.
The court was also told Chandigarh-Dubai Indigo flight which had been discontinued has been restored. “IndiGo in the meeting held on February 11 suggested that if code share operations are permitted by Ministry of Civil Aviation at Chandigarh, then they can consider to operate from Chandigarh to other destinations to which a concrete proposal was to be submitted by Indigo to the chairperson i.e. secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation,” reads the reply.
In December 2019, total daily departures from Chandigarh were 34 as far as domestic operations are concerned. With the summer schedule 2020 starting from March 30, the airlines have submitted request for 65 departures. “However, before March 30, 2020, addition of departures in domestic airlines will increase from 31 to 41 on March 5, 2020”.
The Ministry of Civil Aviation in its affidavit has said that all other airlines are of the view that international flights from Chandigarh would not be “commercially viable due to inadequate traffic and low yields”. Besides Indigo’s Dubai flight, Air India’s Sharjah flight is the only direct international flight from here.
📣 The Indian Express is now on Telegram. Click here to join our channel (@indianexpress) and stay updated with the latest headlines