In good news for passengers because it will increase the number of seats available, Indian carriers can now fly more to the US.
In a huge endorsement, the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) restored India’s aviation safety rating back to the Category I status on Wednesday.
What this means is that domestic airlines including Air India and Jet Airways can increase flights to that country and have new code-shares with American carriers. Also, other Indian carriers can begin services to the US.
Furthermore, airlines would no longer be subjected to additional inspections at US airports, and the upgrade will improve international perception about aviation safety in India.
“India now meets the requirements under the international oversight standards of the Chicago Convention,” FAA’s Margaret Gilligan wrote to DGCA chief M Sathiyavathy on Wednesday.
The January 2014 downgrade had meant that airlines could not increase or start new flights to America. India was put in the Category II list by FAA, joining Ghana, Curacao and Serbia, and below Malta and Pakistan.
The downgrade was a result of an FAA audit that had determined that India was not in compliance with international standards for aviation safety oversight.
FAA officials had concluded a two-day review of the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) on March 31, 2015.
“This is a big news because India has worked very hard over the last one year to achieve that status,” Anthony Foxx, secretary, US department of transportation, said after meeting aviation minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju.
“It speaks well about our aviation security,” Raju said.
“I see this as a positive development as the downgrade was embarrassing,” said Kapil Kaul, South Asia CEO of Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation.
Kaul, however, cautioned that India’s safety oversight regime needs a fundamental restructuring as growth will bring in more challenges and “our under preparedness might become visible again if long term strategic correction is not initiated”.
“First step will be to have a technical professional to head the Directorate General of Civil Aviation,” he said.