Bid to farm out Jet foreign slots
The government on Friday said a rule-based approach would be followed for the allocation of Jet Airways’ lucrative international flying rights, with all the domestic players hankering for a piece of the pie.
The civil aviation ministry will create a transparent standard operating procedure (SOP) to allocate the rights on a temporary basis.
“We had asked airlines to confirm their requirement of (domestic) slots and (international) traffic rights...Their requests have been officially logged in,” civil aviation secretary P.S. Kharola said on Friday.
“Our people will do an analysis now and we will evolve a transparent SOP based on which the rights will be given,” Kharola said. He was speaking to reporters after a meeting with the senior executives of Indian airlines.
Analysts said the move to allot the overseas flying slots was another step to discourage the bidders of Jet from going ahead with their plan to rescue the debt-laden carrier.
According to DGCA data for 2017-18, Jet Airways was the biggest international player among the domestic carriers, with a market share of 13.8 per cent, followed by Air India at 10.4 per cent.
Jet was the second-largest operator in the domestic market after IndiGo.
All carriers have shown interest for Jet’s slots, including IndiGo, Air India, SpiceJet, GoAir and Vistara. But priority in terms of allocation will be given to Air India.
“Air India always gets (international flying rights) the priority,” Kharola said.
He clarified that the allocation of such rights would be temporary and subject to Jet Airways’ revival.
Analysts said Air India was likely to corner the bulk of of the rights to Europe, the US and the Far East. Neither SpiceJet nor GoAir or IndiGo has wide-bodied planes required to operate non-stop long-haul flights to Europe and the US.
Air India has the maximum number of international flights, serving 380 routes, including 33 weekly flights to the US, Chicago, New York JFK, San Francisco, Washington Dulles and Newark.
However, other carriers have ambitious plans to fly abroad. Each, therefore, will try to get the maximum share of foreign flying rights.
Jet Airways’ international routes also include Abu Dhabi, Singapore, Hong Kong, France, Dhaka, Bahrain, Kuwait, Kathmandu and Riyadh.
Aviation consultant Mark Martin said, “Every other country has some checks and balances in terms of the set guidelines in such situations but Indian aviation never follows any SOP.”
Since Jet grounded its operations on April 17, flyers have been left with fewer options even as fares have shot up on international routes.
The Centre has already allocated 480 domestic slots — out of 750 that were vacated due to Jet Airways’ suspension of operations — to other airlines.
Generally, after negotiation between two countries, a bilateral aviation framework is signed between them that specifies the maximum number of passengers one country’s airlines can fly to another per week. This weekly seat entitlement is termed as foreign flying rights.