Read this from THE HINDU BUSINESSLINE :
Addressing the India-Asean Summit, Mr Vajpayee said the designated airlines of Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam will be allowed to operate daily flights to Delhi, Mumbai, Kolkata and Chennai without having to enter into bilateral air-services talks with India. Besides, Mr Vajpayee also offered unlimited number of flights to these airlines to another 18 tourist destinations, including such places as Goa and Bhubaneswar.
Now, the designated airlines of four of the Asean members — Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia and Brunei — operate flights to various destinations in India. So the real beneficiaries of Mr Vajpayee's statement would be the designated airlines of the other six nations which will now be able to start operating daily flights to the four metros.
Of course, the airlines of the former group, can start flights to metros they do not serve now; for instance, Singapore Airlines, which does not have daily flights to cities like Kolkata, can look to starting a service without worrying about signing bilateral rights with India.
Besides, the Asean airlines can also operate flights to bring tourists to 18 other destinations, which will, hopefully, give a boost to the local economy. If more Asean airlines start operating to India, fares could move south, providing a further impetus for tourists to travel within the region.
Officials of Singapore Airlines and Malaysian Airlines have welcomed the open-skies decision. The Chairman of the Expert Committee of the Associated Chambers of Commerce and Industry on Aviation and Tourism, Mr Subhash Goyal, said the flow of tourists from the Asean region would definitely increase.
The Chief Executive Officer of Kuoni Travel Group, Mr Ranjit Malkani, said that the move will lead to the decline in monopoly of national carriers (Air India/Indian Airlines) and thereby take competition to a higher level, leading the airlines to price their products more competitively, offer discounts and provide value-added services in a bid to lure the travellers.
While the attempts at closer integration with Asean are welcome, what is difficult to understand is how nothing seems to being done, at least apparently, to ensure some relief to the two state owned airlines which also operate flights to several Asean destinations.
Neither Air India nor Indian Airlines has been able to acquire new aircraft in the past several years.
They are managing with leased capacity, while their competitors, including several from Asean, have been inducting newer aircraft some of which are being used on flights to India.
To give just one example. Indian Airlines has been waiting for more than one-and-half years to get the Government's nod for the purchase of new aircraft, which would enable it offer more flights and operate on newer routes.
But Malaysian national carrier, Malaysian Airlines, has signed the deal to acquire the double-decker 550-seater Airbus A-380 aircraft, which is scheduled to enter service several years from now.
Besides, there is a fear that the Asean airlines may not just be bringing passengers to India but also taking travellers from India to their homebase and beyond. Something that will surely hurt the financial fortunes of AI
In the final analysis, while Mr Vajpayee's statement can bring about greater economic benefit for India in terms of more tourist arrivals, there is a feeling that something should have been done to help India's airlines also, especially as air services bilaterals are generally agreed to on a reciprocal basis.