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India, U.S. sign `open skies' agreement

Special Correspondent

"Boost to our economies, our businesses and our citizens"


  • Replaces 50-year-old treaty
  • Removes cap on number of flights
  • Delta, Northwest plan services to Chennai, Bangalore
  • Special provision on safety
  • Air India to add flights to three U.S. routes



    SKY'S THE LIMIT: Minister for Civil Aviation Praful Patel and U.S. Transportation Secretary NormanY. Mineta exchange documents after signing an agreement on air traffic transport between the two countries, in New Delhi. — Photo: V. Sudershan

    NEW DELHI: India and the United States today signed a landmark agreement, permitting any number of airlines to operate any number of flights to any point in each other's territory.

    The historic agreement was signed by the Minister of State for Civil Aviation, Praful Patel, and the visiting U.S. Transportation Secretary, Norman Y. Mineta, here. "If prior experience is any indicator, this bilateral `open skies' agreement between India and the U.S. will stimulate new passenger and cargo services, new partnerships, innovation, and lower prices to the benefit of our economies, our businesses and our citizens," Mr. Mineta said.

    New services

    Several U.S. carriers have already announced new services. Delta plans a daily service between New York and Chennai while Northwest Airlines plans a service connecting Minneapolis and Bangalore. Recently, Continental Airlines announced new non-stop service between Newark and New Delhi from November 1.

    The Union Cabinet on Wednesday gave its approval for replacing the 1956 Air Services Agreement with the new one according to which Air India and other carriers will have ports of call other than the existing ones such as Chicago, Los Angeles, New York and Newark (New Jersey). Similarly, American carriers will also be able to have direct operations to additional cities in India. Currently, Indian carriers operate 28 flights a week to the U.S. which, in turn, has 14 flights. Mr. Patel said the agreement would help Air India realise its plans to operate flights to Washington, San Francisco and Houston. The private carrier Jet Airways has been allowed to operate flights to New York via Brussels.

    The new accord also seeks to remove the earlier restriction of code-share rights to any five points in the territories of both countries. It proposes to eliminate all existing restrictions on Fifth Freedom traffic through intermediate points and provides for greater operational flexibility. A special provision relating to safety has been added.

    Minimising glitches

    PTI adds:

    Later at a luncheon meeting hosted by FICCI and the American Chamber of Commerce, Mr. Mineta said efforts were on to minimise the "glitches" in issuing visas.

    Mr. Patel, replying to a question on whether Left parties were consulted before firming up this accord, said this was especially meant to give more air connectivity and point-to-point easier travel for the people of the two countries.

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