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India-Russia air turbulence ends

DGCA seeks reasons why Air India and Jet Airways were not being allowed to use the Russian airspace, report Gaurav Choudhury & Lalatendu Mishra.
None | By Gaurav Choudhury & Lalatendu Mishra, New Delhi/ Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAY 16, 2007 03:10 AM IST

The uncertainty of Indian carriers using Russian airspace has blown over with the Russian authorities agreeing to maintain status quo of an earlier bilateral civil aviation agreement.

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) had asked two Russian carriers — Aerflot and Transco Airlines — why they should not be barred from using the Indian airspace as Russia had decided to disallow Indian aircraft from flying over their airspace.

In a communication to the two airlines, the DGCA had sought reasons why Air India and Jet Airways were not being allowed to use the Russian airspace.

According to the bilateral agreement signed in February 2006, the designated airlines of Russia shall be entitled to operte to and from three additional destinations – Ahmedabad, Goa and Amritsar—apart from Delhi, Mumbai and Kolkata. Besides, the designated airlines of both the countries as per their respective schedules.

DGCA sources said that Russian authorities had communicated to India that it would not allow Indian carriers to over-fly Russian airspace beyond May 15.

“No specific reason was cited for such a move. The matter was also taken up at the diplomatic level by India”, sources added. DGCA made it clear that it would be forced to take action to bar these airlines from using the Indian airspace.

“On Tuesday DGCA has received a communication from Russia that they would not stop Indian carriers from flying over Russia airspace,” sources said.

Under the bilateral air traffic services agreements signed between two governments, airlines of each country are determined to operate an equal number of flights in each other’s territories.

Air India and Jet Airways officials said that their flights are continuing to fly over Russian airspace and so far no ban has been imposed.

“We believe Russia had threatened to prohibit Indian carriers to fly over their airspace to settle some of its issues. After the DGCA rap, they have cleared the corridor for a month pending some bilateral issues. It seems Russia is trying to put some pressure on India,” an Air India official said .

Any ban on the Russian airspace would result in the flight time getting extended by one more hour.

All of Jet and Air India’s flights bound for London, Europe and New York fly over the Russian Airspace. Diversion of flight would cost these airlines an extra fuel cost of 3,000 us gallons costing over $6,000 (Rs 2.4 lakh).

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