New Delhi: The Indian government has activated bilateral air service agreements with 116 countries and is allowing foreign carriers to serve India to add more flights to the country's metropolitan cities. "India has signed bilateral Air Services Agreement (ASA) with 116 foreign countries," Minister of State for Civil Aviation Gen VK Singh (retd) informed the Parliament in a written reply on Monday.
"Any designated foreign airline can operate to/from a point in India if it is designated as a point of call in the bilateral Air Services Agreement (ASA) signed between India and the country which has designated the airline," he added.
Travel industry experts said the government's move will benefit passengers and may bring down airfares.
"It is good to have bilateral air service agreements with countries to increase seat capacity and have an open sky policy for foreign carriers as it will benefit passengers," Anju Wariah, Director, Group Business Development, STIC Travel Group told ANI.
The government has also said due to a significant imbalance in the number of points of call in favour of foreign carriers at present, it is not granting any non-metro airport as a new point of call to any foreign carrier for the purpose of operating passenger services.
Indian designated carriers are free to mount scheduled operations to and from any international airport, including Kannur International Airport, under the ambit of bilateral ASAs concluded by India with foreign countries.
The travel industry has been urging the government for quite some time that foreign carriers be allowed to operate from cities other than metro airports.
"Indian-designated carriers are free to mount operations from any city but a foreign carrier is not. Till the time it's not done, there will be a demand-supply gap which can impact prices," Anju Wariah said.
The countries with which India has signed bilateral air service agreements include those in Asia, Europe, Middle East and South America.