Monday, June 22, 2020

India-China air traffic mirrors trade — heavily skewed in Beijing's favour

The last few weeks have been busy along the Line of Actual Control (LAC) with China. For the first time since 1975, India and China lost soldiers in a conflict. While many brave Indian soldiers lost lives in the clashes, social media was abuzz with a ‘Boycott China’ campaign, and WhatsApp messages with the list of companies with Chinese investments and mobile phone companies with roots in China were busy being forwarded.
The government was quick to cancel a few contracts that some Chinese companies had won. As the government contemplates additional measures on trade and commerce, will it also spill over to aviation?

The Chinese and Americans have been sparring over flights for quite some time, with both sides even banning flights for a while. Could that happen between India and China as well? Well, if it does, the Chinese carriers could have a lot more to lose than our carriers.

Air traffic services between the two countries are governed by Air Services Agreement (ASA), popularly known as bilateral rights. The current ASA between India and China allows for 42 frequencies, translating into six daily flights. China was one of the most ignored countries by airlines in India, until recently.
While the Chinese side utilised 41 out of the 42 frequencies, the Indian side was being represented only by Air India, with five weekly flights to Shanghai from New Delhi. And then, IndiGo jumped in. IndiGo launched operations last year to China, with flights from New Delhi to Chengdu and Kolkata to Guangzhou. The airline had announced flights to Chengdu from Mumbai but even the maiden flight did not take off as COVID-19 crippled the world.
India has a separate ASA with Hong Kong – a Special Administrative Region, which is also in the middle of a conflict with China for the last few months. India’s ASA with Hong Kong allows for 45 weekly frequencies.
22/06/20 Ameya Joshi/
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