Asian regional airlines oppose India's extended open skies proposal

Asian regional airlines like Qatar Airways and Singapore Airlines and even Eurasian Turkish Airlines have come out against India's proposal of opening up skies for airlines from countries that are over 5,000 km away, saying that it would be disastrous for the region's airlines.

India proposed the open skies policy at the aviation summit in Hyderabad where the union minister for civil aviation was present. The policy was, however, endorsed by several foreign airlines.

An open sky policy allows airlines to operate unlimited flights between two countries.

The Indian government has proposed to allow airlines from countries that are over 5,000 km away from India to operate as many flights as they like.

Individually, however, Qatar Airways, Singapore Airlines and Turkish Airlines want India to open up its skies for them. These countries favour bilateral agreements rather than a universal open skies policy.

Turkish Airlines is negotiating an open sky policy with India, according to a Business Line report, which quoted the airlines president and chief executive, Temel Kotil.

According to him, the Turkish Airline is working with Air India on a bilateral pact, even as the airline supported the Indian national carrier's entry into the Star Alliance, an alliance of 28 global airlines.

"We support open skies but not the policy to deny Singapore expansion," said Goh Choon Phong, chief executive of Singapore Airlines, said.

Akbar Al Baker, group chief executive of Qatar Airways, also opposed the move saying it was "wrong'' to exclude Qatar, as 60 per cent of the Indian diaspora population lived within the radius, which the Indian government plans to draw.

"So basically you are encouraging people beyond this (5,000 km) to come. And none of the airlines beyond this six hours (about the distance from which the Indian government's plans of limiting the open skies) are interested in coming,'' he said.

India is yet to firm up its open sky policy for countries beyond 5,000 km, which will be decided after the union cabinet decides on the civil aviation policy.