US carriers are lobbying with the state administration to not allow foreign carriers including Air India, which are using the Russian airspace, to land at US airports as they feel disadvantaged on fares and flying time.
The US carriers say they are facing loss of business to Indian, Chinese and Gulf carriers which use the Russian airspace, offer cheaper tickets and fly faster. As US carriers are banned from using the Russian airspace, they are forced to use a circuitous route.
While Campbell Wilson, MD and CEO of Air India, declined to comment on the matter, Rajiv Bansal, secretary, ministry of civil aviation, confirmed the development but said it would be incorrect for countries to start telling others which routes to fly on. “This is something which the US senators are pursuing with their government. We have not received anything from the US government. If countries start telling who can fly where, the entire international civil aviation order will break,” Bansal told FE on the sidelines of the CAPA India Aviation Summit 2023.
Analysts pointed out that it will be difficult for the US administration to succumb to such lobbying, especially in the case of Air India because of the strong Indo-US relations and also due to the fact that India is a signatory to the Chicago Convention. Air India has more than 40 flights a week to the US from India.
Air routes are covered by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) which was set up by the Chicago Convention in 1944, Bansal said.
Industry watchers say that the US airlines had done a number of lobbying efforts in the past where they have lobbied against West Asian carriers like Emirates, Qatar and Etihad, but today they are partnering them through code-share agreements.
“Of course, they are feeling the pinch. American airlines don’t fly over Iran, too, so that does not mean that other carriers should do the same. You have certain advantages of being registered with a certain country. The US market is so well organised and the fares are so high that I can also complain and ask for similar airfare levels in India, but that’s not how it works,” said a CEO of one of India’s leading airlines.
After the Russian invasion of Ukraine last year, the US, UK, Canada and Europe banned Russian aircraft from entering their airspace. Moscow reacted by banning flights their from using the Russian airspace.
Kapil Kaul, CEO and director, CAPA India, said: “India has got nothing to do with it. It is a geopolitical issue between the US and Russia or Russia and Europe. I don’t see an impact, there is no feasible proposition to it.”