NEW DELHI: The Ministry of Civil Aviation has invited the United Arab Emirates for bilateral discussions on the issue of air traffic rights on October 23 following request by the UAE’s civil aviation authorities.
The bilateral at a time when the government is aggressively pursuing Air India disinvestment has come as a surprise. The government had in October 2018 decided not to allow an increase in flights operated by carriers from the UAE or to re-designate flights. However, sources said that may happen this time due to pressure from the oil-rich country. Sources said there will be deliberations on re-designation of flights in a reversal of the policy.
India’s air service agreement with the UAE is unique and different from the standard process of bilateral flying agreements signed between two countries. While India has single air service agreement with the UAE, New Delhi has given separate traffic rights to four Emirates of the UAE.
Because of this, four airlines of the four emirates — Etihad (Abu Dhabi), Emirates (Dubai), Air Arabia (Sharjah) and RAK Airways (Ras-Al-Khaima) —have separate MoUs for respective traffic rights. The departure from the globally prevalent norm was due to reluctance by each Emirate to share its entitlement with each other.
RAK Airways stopped flying since 2014. Since no other airline from any of the Emirates could replace the RAK Airways right as per the MoU, Air Arabia saw an opportunity to grab those seats, which is against the deal.
Even a Parliament reply from the ministry had said in 2017 that re-designation was not possible under the MoUs signed. Sources said India-UAE is among the busiest and most lucrative international routes.
DGCA to go for digitisation
Following a clerical error due to which a civil aircraft was assigned a military code, the aviation regulator has decided for complete digitisation of the system. A SpiceJet plane flying into Pakistan airspace after being assigned military code was recently intercepted by Pakistan air force fighter jets. Considering the fact that any manual error can lead to a bigger controversy, a senior official said the regulator has decided to computerize the whole system by a leading IT service provider, probably by Tata Consultancy Services.