Air India loses preferential access to bilateral rights needed to operate international flights

As per a revised set of guidelines issued by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Air India will no longer enjoy a priority in the allocation of international traffic rights. 

The move comes after Tata Sons took control of Air India from the government. In the revised guidelines issued on April 19, DGCA apparently removed a clause that gave the airline advantage over other private carriers. 

The deleted clause stated: “Due consideration shall be given to operational plans submitted by Air India before allocation of the traffic rights to other eligible applicants.” 

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On January 27, the Tata Group took full control of the airline as it landed back in the hands of its founders decades after it was nationalised. The strategic disinvestment transaction was concluded after years as a burden on the public purse. 

Meanwhile, the latest move means, it is now equal for all the airlines for the allocation of traffic rights. 

The fresh circular read: “The central government 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.” 

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Significantly, for the airlines of a particular country to operate international flights to another country, the two sides have to negotiate and sign a “bilateral air services agreement”. 

The agreement decides how many flights (or seats) per week can be allowed to fly from one country to the other. Importantly, once such an agreement is signed, each country is free to allocate the bilateral rights to its respective airlines. 

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