Mumbai : 

India and the United Kingdom have revised their air service agreement that will enable carriers from both countries to operate an extra 14 flights per week from London Heathrow to Delhi and Mumbai airports.

A memorandum of understanding was signed by representatives of the civil aviation ministry and UK's department for transport (DFT) on May 1 but wasn't formally announced so far.

In a statement, UK's DFT said the UK-India air service agreement means flights between London Heathrow to Delhi and Mumbai can increase from 56 to 70 services per week for both UK and Indian airlines from winter season this year. However it is for airlines to decide how many more flights to add and when, it said.

" Around 300,000 people travel between India and UK every month and total trade in goods and services between the countries was £ 39 billion in 2023. We expect this to increase even further with more flights, consolidating our strong relationship with India and further supporting business, trade and tourism," DFT said.

The revision benefits UK carriers which have exhausted their entitlement of 56 flights per week while Indian carriers ( Air India and Vistara) operate 38 flights per week between London Heathrow to Delhi and Mumbai.

Last month Virgin Atlantic announced its second London-Mumbai service from October end anticipating an increase in traffic rights.

logical step

"Expansion of traffic rights between India and London Heathrow airport is a logical step. It was long overdue. However slot constraints at Heathrow remains a big issue," said Kapil Kaul, CEO of aviation consultancy CAPA India.

Nearly four million passengers flew between India and UK in 2023. Delhi and London Heathrow airports accounted for most traffic between two countries. While Mumbai and London Gatwick airports came second, the third spot was held by Manchester and Kochi airports.

Air India, British Airways, Emirates, Virgin Atlantic and Etihad were the largest carriers in the market in 2023 with Emirates accounting for nearly ten per cent of the traffic. Air India's passenger traffic share was around 30 per cent, a source said. Air India also flies to Gatwick and Birmingham and largely serves point to point market while British Airways and Virgin Atlantic carry a lot of onward traffic to the US.

"UK has always been a favourite destination - and this is across our segments of business travel, leisure and MICE ( meetings, conferences, exhibitions). Hence the revised air services agreement, that ushers in increased flights, is indeed positive news for us. The additional capacity to-from both Mumbai and Delhi to Heathrow will serve to ease the current demand-supply constrains, and to some extent rationalise the air pricing on this route," said Indiver Rastogi, president & group head, global business travel, Thomas Cook (India) and SOTC Travel.