DELHI: The Centre has not yet given up on its plan to auction international air traffic rights to foreign airlines, sources said.
Top officials of the Cabinet Secretariat met chief executives of domestic airlines last Tuesday to seek their views on Civil Aviation Ministry’s first of its kind proposal to auction international traffic rights which is being negotiated between two countries at present, reports The Hindu.
The domestic airlines were asked whether or not they were in favour of putting out their unutilised traffic quota on short haul routes for bidding to international players, according to sources.
However, the domestic airlines reiterated their opposition to the proposal in a presentation given to the Cabinet Secretariat officials, a senior Civil Aviation ministry official said.
Even some foreign airlines such as Qatar Airways had expressed disappointment over the unique proposal.
A panel, headed by Cabinet Secretary P.K. Sinha will hold a meeting soon to take a final call on the auction proposal.
In 2015, the ministry had proposed a move to become the first country in the world to bid out traffic rights for three years to foreign carriers belonging to countries within 5,000 km radius from India.
As per the proposal, traffic rights would be auctioned in cases where the foreign country – with which India has signed an air services agreement – has fully utilised its air traffic right quota but India has not utilised its entitlements. “Whenever domestic carriers come close to the utilisation of domestic quota, traffic rights will not be auctioned and will be renegotiated in the usual manner”, according to the proposal in the draft civil aviation policy released in October 2015.
As per the global practice, also followed by India, countries sign air service agreement bilaterally which decides the equal number of flights or seats per week that can fly into each other’s country depending upon their own requirements.
Then, the government distributes the allocated seats to the respective airlines. Some foreign carriers, particularly from Gulf countries, have exhausted their right entitlements.
As the domestic carriers are unable to utilise their own quota in some cases, the government has deterred from increasing the seat entitlement or sign fresh bilateral agreements.
Domestic airlines and International Air Transport Association (IATA), which represents 265 airlines globally, had strongly opposed the idea of auctioning air traffic rights, following which it was dropped in the final National Civil Aviation Policy released last year, approved by the Union Cabinet.