India is keen on having an 'Open Sky' policy with the United Kingdom to keep pace with the burgeoning air travel between the two countries.
"On our side we are keen. We would like to have an Open Sky policy with the UK on the pattern of the one with the USA," Ashok Chawla, Secretary, Ministry of Civil Aviation, said during an Interactive Session at the India House in London.
Chawla, who held talks with his counterparts in London, said Britain has pointed out their problems in having such a policy with India "because of EU stipulations." Talks were also on with the EU to overcome the problem, he said.
The Civil Aviation Secretary said in the last three to four years, the number of flights from the UK to India has increased very rapidly - from 27 to 113. At present there are 56 weekly flights from India to the UK and 57 flights from the UK to India.
Shiv Shankar Mukherjee, India's High Commissioner to the UK, who presided over the Interactive Session this weekend, said, "Tourism and Civil Aviation is an area which is almost exploding in India. Tourism which was No. 64 in the priority list of development in the First Five Year plan, has now emerged as among the largest creator of jobs in the country and India is literally on the move."
KD Row, Regional Manager, Air India, UK and Ireland was also present. Referring to the explosive growth that is taking place in passenger travel and aircraft induction, Chawla said "there has been a cumulative growth of 25 per cent."
"It is not just domestic passenger growth but international passenger growth as well which has increased 15 to 16 per cent year-on-year. Delhi-Mumbai air corridor is today the sixth busiest in the world, with about 100 flights a week," Chawla said.
He said the rapid growth in the aviation industry in India has led to a "deficiency in Human Resources." Out of the 5,000 qualified pilots operating flights in the country, about 800 to 900 were from overseas, mostly from the US and the UK.
"We are bringing international experts to upgrade our Pilot Training Institutes in UP and Maharashtra and this deficit of pilots will get addressed to," he said.
According to official sources, the Civil Aviation industry in India would require an estimated 6,000 additional certified captains over the next five years.
It has been estimated that in the next five years, 5,000 additional pilots would be required for scheduled operations and 1,000 pilots for non-scheduled and private operations.
Chawla said by 2020, India would spend an estimated USD 110 billion for acquisition of new aircraft and upgrading of facilities.
Noting that the increase in the number of flights between the UK and India had not only provided convenience to travellers, he said it has also helped moderate the fares. He expected more flights to be operated from India to London from August this year. Answering questions, Chawla said the Chandigarh airport was being upgraded very substantially and it would be ready in the next three years. Amritsar airport has emerged as one of the busiest destinations.
"It was upgraded in the Phase I and the number of aircraft has increased further. Government of Punjab is very keen to have another airport near Ludhiana."
He said air-traffic in Delhi would start easing up in the next 3 to 4 months when a new runway is completed.