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DGCA tells airlines to surrender unutilized international routes

LiveMint logoLiveMint 21-03-2017 Tarun Shukla

Aviation regulator Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has asked airlines to surrender routes that they won’t fly within six months of being allocated the rights.

The aviation ministry signs air services agreements with various countries, allowing their airlines a fixed number of seats on various routes to India. Local airlines also get the same number of seats which are then farmed out to airlines including Air India, Jet Airways, IndiGo and SpiceJet.

“The traffic rights allocated to an airline for a particular schedule period shall be fully utilized by it during the same schedule period. Failure to do so shall result in the unutilized rights reverting back to Ministry of Civil Aviation at the end of the schedule period for which they were allocated and the ministry will be free to allocate them to other airlines,” DGCA said in a notification on Tuesday.

So far, airlines were allowed extensions and they could carry forward the route allocation to the next schedule. Flights are awarded in summer schedule starting in March followed by a winter schedule six months later.

“The defaulter airline may also apply afresh, if it so wishes, but its priority for allocation of rights will be reckoned as the lowest among all the applicants,” the regulator said.

This means if an airline has not been able to fly a route, say Delhi-Doha, in the summer schedule, another airline can stake claim to it on priority for the next season.

The regulator has also said airlines will be free to do code share agreements with international airlines that are within the purview of signed agreements of India. They can also join global alliances such as Star Alliance, One World, Sky Team and just “keep the Ministry of Civil Aviation and DGCA informed about it.”

Earlier airlines had to seek approval from the ministry to enter into code share agreements or alliances as they could harm state-run Air India’s interests.

Air India is a member of Star Alliance.

DGCA has also said airlines which are planning new international launches will have to deploy 20 aircraft or 20% of total capacity (in term of average number of seats on all departures put together), whichever is higher, for domestic operations.

It also said that in case there are more suitors for the same sector and available traffic rights are not sufficient to cover the requirements, the allocation shall be first made for operations from a non-metro airport and the balance traffic rights shall be allocated in the ratio of Available Seat Kilometers (ASKMs) deployed by the applicants on domestic scheduled air transport services during the last five completed schedule periods.

“The Central Government (Ministry of Civil Aviation) may at its discretion grant or deny allocation of traffic rights to any air transport undertaking having regard to its preparedness to undertake such operations, viability of the operations on a particular route, overall interests of the civil aviation sector, etc,” it said.

In the past one year, the government has relaxed the requirement for local airlines to fly international routes. Startups Vistara and AirAsia are now planning to start international operations by next year. GoAir is also planning to launch international operations this year, while IndiGo, SpiceJet, Air India and Jet Airways are expanding their international footprint.

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