Wednesday, September 14, 2011
A recent story out of India demonstrates yet again the domestic tensions Open skies policy must overcome. India's Civil Aviation Ministry yesterday defended India's existing bilateral air services agreements against criticism from the Comptroller and Auditor-General (CAG). See Shisher Sinha, Aviation Ministry Not to Review Bilateral Air Service Pacts, The Hindu Business Line, Sept. 13, 2011 (available here). The CAG released its Performance Audit of Civil Aviation in India last week. The report criticized the handling of the merger between the two state-run carriers, Air India and Indian Airlines as well as Air India's fleet expansion. Additionally, the CAG reported that India's bilateral service agreements granting Sixth Freedom rights to countries such as Dubai and Bahrain were hurting Indian carriers and recommended rolling back some of the rights granted to Gulf carriers. Despite the internal pressure, the Aviation Ministry announced that it would not consider any changes to existing agreements, claiming it would be extremely difficult to roll back rights that have already been granted and doing so would have serious diplomatic consequences.