India, Russia back off from confrontation over issue of flying rights

New Delhi: India and Russia avoided an unseemly confrontation with each other over the issue of flying rights, after Russian officials issued a notice saying that they would not allow Indian flights to operate in their country beyond May 15. Indian regulatory agency, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) responded briskly, issuing a notice to Russian airlines Aeroflot and Transaero asking them to suspend flights into India. The Indian response resulted in a temporary truce period being agreed upon, during which both countries would try and resolve pending issues related to a bilateral air services agreement.

The new deadline expires on June 15.

As per a memorandum of understanding signed in February 2006, both countries are entitled to operate 46 frequencies per week in each direction, including 14 frequencies per week between Delhi and Moscow, and 8 frequencies per week between Mumbai and Moscow.

It appears that trouble began when Russian authorities began putting restrictions on Air India and Jet Airways from flying over their territory. The reason provided was that the two airlines were overusing their flying rights beyond that permitted under the bilateral agreement.

The Indian side argued that Russians were miscalculating the number of flights arriving from India by also adding the number of times Indian carriers flew over Russian airspace.

The argument took a turn for the worse with the Russians issuing a notice saying they would not allow Indian flights to operate in their country beyond May 15. The DGCA responded by asking Aeroflot and Transaero to suspend operations into India.

DGCA's tough response resulted in Russian authorities extending their May 15 deadline by a month to June 15. It is now expected that Russian and Indian aviation officials will discuss the issue and sort out their differences.

Meanwhile, the DGCA has issued a similar warning to Malaysia Airlines, asking it why it's operations into India should not be stopped in wake of Malaysian authorities not allowing Air India and Air Sahara to operate to and from Kuala Lumpur.