India’s decision to restrict foreign carriers’ non-scheduled cargo flights to major cities in the country was taken to provide a level playing to domestic airlines at a time when COVID-19 has significantly affected the aviation sector, said Civil Aviation Minister Hardeep Singh Puri on Thursday.
Indian aviation regulator DGCA had on September 18 said that foreign carriers can operate their non-scheduled cargo flights to and from six Indian cities — Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad — only.
Scheduled flights are those which get their schedule approved by the aviation regulator in advance for a period running into months. Non-scheduled flights are charter flights that are operated as per requirement.
Puri said on Twitter,”For providing a level playing field for Indian air cargo operators in these Covid affected times, some changes have been made in the open sky policy for cargo.”
He said non-scheduled cargo flight operations by foreign carriers to and from India are now “restricted to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata, Chennai, Bengaluru and Hyderabad” while Indian carriers can still mount non-scheduled cargo flights from any point in the country.
Foreign carriers carry around 90 per cent of the total international cargo to and from India, Puri said on Twitter, adding that no change has been made in the “open sky policy for scheduled cargo operations of Indian or foreign carriers”.
“They (foreign carriers’ scheduled cargo flights) can still fly to/from any point in India, including those in Kerala,” he added.
Earlier in the day, Minister of State for External Affairs V Muraleedharan met Puri and requested him to add Kochi airport to the list of six airports permitted to handle non-scheduled cargo flights of foreign carriers.
Muraleedharan said on Twitter he requested Puri to “take expeditious steps for re-consideration of the changes made in the Open Sky Policy to strengthen exports of agricultural produce”.
While scheduled passenger flights continue to remain suspended in India since March 23 due to the coronavirus pandemic, scheduled cargo flights have been allowed to operate as usual.