Flight Plan

Going global calls for a lot of ground work for an airline

Ashwini Phadnis | Updated on September 01, 2020

The arrival hall at Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi (file photo)   -  Getty Images

Starting international operations involves coordination with governments across the world

For an airline, starting international operations is a long-drawn-out process that involves not only aviation regulators but also governments since, globally, governments have set down strict rules that foreign airlines have to follow before they are allowed to operate in their territories.

For example, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has laid down various guidelines that have to be met before a foreign airline can start operations to and from India.

The DGCA examines a variety of issues, including whether the designated airline is qualified to meet the conditions prescribed under the laws and regulations normally applied to the operations of international air services and that the Party designating the airline is maintaining and administering standards with regard to safety and aviation security set forth in the bilateral Air Services Agreement.

The DGCA sets up an internal committee that examines these issues and it is only after it is fully satisfied that operating authorisation is given to an airline. This operating authorisation is valid for five years and the airline has to get it renewed if it wants to continue operating to and from India.

The DGCA can also revoke or suspend the operating authorisation under certain conditions, like the designated airline failing to comply with Indian laws and regulations and if it is not following safety or aviation security standards.

Freedoms of Air

As though all this is not complicated, Dr Nasim Zaidi, who has not only headed DGCA but has also been Secretary Civil Aviation, says that the two countries between which an agreement is being signed need to agree on seat entitlement, points of call (airports to which flights will operate) and Freedom of Air rights. These are documented in an Air Services Agreement and are like a treaty between the two countries.

After these formalities have been completed, the two countries designate their airlines to fly to the points agreed. They also need to agree on a variety of issues, including whether one or more airlines will be allowed to operate, to how many cities and how many times a week these flights will be allowed to operate.

In addition, the two sides also have to agree on what Freedoms of Air will be allowed to the carriers of both the countries. The various Freedoms of Air are internationally accepted protocol that allow airlines to fly from, say, India to another country and also fly back to India picking up passengers from the country where they have landed. These cover the first four Freedoms of Air rights.

These Freedoms also allow an airline to carry passengers from the foreign country in which it has landed to a second foreign country. India, for example, has signed an agreement with Hong Kong which allows Indian carriers to fly to Hong Kong and then onwards from there.

If an airline is flying into a foreign country for the first time, then it has to go through additional checks. For example, a foreign carrier flying into the US for the first time has to seek Operating Authorisation. Once this is filed, the US authorities seek public comments.

After a review of the public comments, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) appoints a technical team to review the application before giving clearance to the airline to operate its flight. Clearance from the Transportation Security Administration (TSA), a department of the US Home Land Security, is also required.

Similarly, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of UK states that “all non-UK air carriers that wish to undertake commercial services to, from or within the United Kingdom are required to hold a Foreign Carrier Permit before that flight is undertaken.”

The CAA website adds that before granting an operating permit for scheduled flights, CAA ensures that the services are undertaken in accordance with the traffic rights and conditions provided under the air service arrangements that the UK has negotiated with the state where the airline is registered.

Published on September 01, 2020

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