US accuses India of unfair practices on charter flights

US accuses India of unfair practices on charter flights
An Air India Boeing 747-400 aircraft is seen parked on the tarmac at Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport in Mumbai, January 30, 2020. Reuters
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The US Transportation Department on Monday accused the Indian government of engaging in "unfair and discriminatory practices" on charter air transportation services to and from India and issued an order requiring Indian air carriers to apply for authorization prior to conducting charter flights.

The order will allow US officials "to scrutinize charter flights by Indian carriers on a case-by-case basis."

The department said it "seeks to restore a level playing field for US airlines" under the US-India Air Transport Agreement. The Indian government, citing the coronavirus, has banned all scheduled services and failed to approve US carriers for charter operations, the department said.

The Indian embassy in Washington did not immediately comment. The order is effective July 22.

The department previously accused China of unfairly denying US air carriers the ability to conduct flights and also demanded China seek pre-approval for some charter flights.

The US government said Air India has been operating what it calls "repatriation" charter flights between India and the United States in both directions since May 7.

Air India is advertising flights "that would constitute a rate of 53% of the scheduled services it operated before the onset of the current public health emergency," the department said.

"Considering this rate of flying, and that Air India is selling tickets on the market, the charters go beyond true repatriations, and it appears that Air India may be using repatriation charters as a way of circumventing the GoI-imposed prohibition of scheduled services."

The US government first raised objections with the Indian government through engagement by the US Embassy New Delhi on May 28.

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