NEW DELHI: India is likely to allow US airlines to do ground-handling on their own in the country’s airports. Intense negotiations on this were held between Indian and US officials during American Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross’ visit here earlier this week.
India had objections on letting foreign carriers do their own ground-handling; security agencies wanted ground-handling of passenger luggage and cargo to be done by Indian firms vetted by it. “We have managed to sort our differences and expect to have a system in place soon,” said a top official.
Other officials said India has also made offerings in trade talks with American officials to reduce duty telecom equipment and automobiles imported from the US, besides relax norms for import of US dairy products.
In the run-up to Ross’s visit, US authorities had threatened to take reciprocal action against Indian airlines by not letting them handle their aircraft cargo in America. The threat was specifically against Air India, as the only other Indian airline flying to the US — Jet Airways — has stopped operations. Air India flies direct to New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Washington.
However, many other airlines including Vistara and IndiGo are believed to be eyeing the lucrative India-US route. Vistara has ordered six Boeing 787-9s, due to be delivered in 2020. Besides, leases of Jet’s B777s could be snapped up by any of India’s airlines for long-haul flights.
From the American side, currently only United flies to India. However, Delta Airlines is believed to be interested in flying to Indian airports soon. Delta has, earlier this month, announced launch of a flight between Mumbai and New York’s John F Kennedy airport from December 22 onwards, just ahead of the busy Christmas season.
The airline, which used to fly this route between 2006 and 2009, had wound up operations after Gulf carriers started taking away traffic by offering cheaper connections via their gateway airport hubs in Dubai, Doha and Abu Dhabi.
The Americans are currently caught in a spat with Gulf carriers over what they term as illegal subsidies that they receive. At the heart of the battle is the fact that Gulf airlines have managed to take the lion’s share of traffic to the US from fast-growing markets like India and China.