A new European Union (EU) law that allows for the sharing of available air service agreements among its member states has the Indian government in a tizzy.
The EU law allows member states to make use of unutilised air traffic routes under bilateral agreements. In other words, if India has a bilateral agreement with Germany to allow 10 flights into the country, and Germany utilises only five; the remaining five can be used by any other EU country.
The proposal under the new law has been presented to the Indian government, which is frankly uncomfortable with it. Government sources believe it will be an unequal contract with no special benefits to India. In other words, India will appear to be conceding far more than it gets. "Three rounds of discussions have been held but India still wants to hold more internal consultations before taking a final view," said a government official.
The government has also issued an inter-ministerial note on the issue. While the proposed agreement will improve the overall utilisation of traffic rights by the EU as a whole, the EU has not offered any reciprocal benefits to India, the note states.
"If India has rights to 10 flights to German cities but is utilising only five, we cannot use the other five routes to fly to Britain or Finland or some other EU member state," the official explained.
Security agencies also have problems with the proposal. In the current scenario, each nation specifies its inbound flights. "Different nations would be utilising various inbound flight routes at short notice making it difficult to keep track of what flights are coming in and from which destination," an official from the Bureau of Civil Aviation Security said.
The civil aviation ministry is also concerned that the proposed agreement could lead to an increase in fuel costs. Globally, airlines are exempt from duties and taxes on aviation fuel for operations by airlines of third countries. An Indian carrier refuelling in Berlin enroute to London is at present exempt from taxes but under the proposed agreement taxes will apply.