New Delhi, Nov. 18: Following close on the heels of India’s decision to liberalise airline pacts with Asean nations and Sri Lanka, the government has signed a deal with South Africa allowing airlines of both countries to more than triple the frequency of their flights, add an extra destination and to allow South Africa the usually-denied fifth freedom to pick up Indian passengers for onwards flights to Thailand.
The memorandum of understanding (MoU) between India and South Africa on air services plans to allow South African Airways (SAA) and Air-India to operate 14 flights each week, with no limits on seat capacity.
While Air-India will be able to operate seven flights to Johannesburg and Durban, SAA will can fly daily to both Mumbai and Delhi. However, SAA can split the 14 flights to fly to Trivandrum also or connect on to that city. Air-India will have similar rights to fly on to Cape Town.
The pact also allows South African Airlines to operate from Mumbai to Bangkok as a point beyond India with fifth freedom rights, which means they can pick up Indian passengers to Thailand.
In return, India will get the right to pick up South Africa-bound passengers from Mauritius. Air-India had pulled out of the Mumbai-Johannesburg route about five years ago, citing poor profitability but the deal allowing them to link Mauritius en-route could prove an incentive for the loss-laden airline to fly back to South Africa.
South African Airlines currently operates four flights a week from Mumbai.
The South African deal is part of an ongoing move by India to liberalise its air pacts with various countries and to augment flights worldwide.
Air-India also plans to start flights to Frankfurt.