U.S. Accuses Air India Of Discriminatory Practices In Operation Of Repatriation Flights

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The U.S Department of Transportation has accused India of engaging in discriminatory practices. This is about the repatriation flights which India started to bring back Indians who were stuck due to the pandemic. They restricted all the flights further to run the flights, and now the Indian Government would need permission from DOT.

Vande-Bharat Mission 

The Vande Bharat mission was announced on April to bring back Indian citizens from several countries. It took place in three phases. Air India and its subsidiary Air India Express brought back 1,50,000 passengers to India with 700 flights under VBM. Government is now planning to launch its fourth phase from July 3. The accusation will affect the smoothening of the process. The Ministry has announced that it will operate 1050 flights, out of which 750 will be Indian private airlines which were earlier not allowed. 

What are the allegations made? 

In the wake of the pandemic countries around the world stopped their International flights operations. Many Indians were further stranded. According to the reports around 5 lakh citizens registered to come back to India through various modes. To bring back them GOI announced VBM through AIR INDIA airline.

The airline started International chartered flights from May 6 across the countries. It started operating on Indo-US routes from 22nd May. The tickets on both sides were then sold. The GOI prevented the US Carriers to sold tickets for India-U.S route. The tickets from U.S to India were further sold through India embassy.

The US Department of Transport said it appears that Air India may be using its passenger repatriation charters as a way of circumventing the Government of India-imposed prohibition of all scheduled international services. They alleged this practice as restrictive and discriminatory with respect to U.S Carrier services to and from India.

How Does it affect the flier booked to U.S.

The order suspended GOI to further run their flights without consultation from the DOT. The order stated that it shall not perform any Third-and/or Fourth-Freedom charter flights unless the Department has granted it. The Third Freedom rights under Chicago Convention rules allow an airline to operate flights from one’s own country to another country. The Fourth Freedom rights allow an airline from another country to one’s own country. This will cause hindrance to the fourth phase of VBM. The fliers would not be able to return unless there is meeting of minds.

How has India responded

India responded by stating that it is considering individual bilateral ties. The countries include U.S, U.K France and Germany. It will allow airlines from these countries to work in pact to operate international flights.

On June 15, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation had said: “DGCA granted permission to around 870 chartered flights, transporting around 2 lakh passengers, both inbound & outbound”. Major airlines include Qatar Airways-81, KLM Dutch-68, Kuwait Air-41, British Airways-39, FlyDubai-38, Air France-32, Jazeera-30, Air Arabia-20, Gulf Air-19, Sri Lankan-19, Biman Bangladesh-15, Korean Air-14, Delta-13, Saudia-13 & Air Nippon-12 took part in the operations.”

Additionally, Airlines like Air New Zealand-12, Thai Air Asia-11, United Airlines-11, Iraqi Airways-11, Oman Air-10, Ural Airlines-9, Lufthansa-8, Somon Air-8, Condour-8, Emirates-5, Etihad-5, Aeroflot-4 & Virgin Atlantic-4 also took part in the chartered operations.

Conclusion 

The ongoing pandemic is the cause of these problems. As stated by ministry, it allowed those airlines to take part in repatriation which have applied. They released the data which completely proves their fact. It is also true that U.S carriers were then banned to operate. Both the counter parts should resolve this issue as soon as possible. As this will impact the citizens who are further stranded there. The virus is unstoppable so it is better for them to be at home if there is fear in residing at that particular country. 


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