Context: The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has restricted repatriation flights being operated by Air India, accusing India of being “unfair”, and engaging in “discriminatory practices”.

More on the news:

  • The order issued by DOT
    • Effective 30 days from the service date of this Order, Air India shall not perform any Third- and/or Fourth-Freedom charter flights unless the Department has granted it .
  • Allegations made by US
    • Indian government has prevented US carriers from conducting India-US passenger charter operations involving direct sales to individual passengers or through other distribution systems.
      • On the other hand, the United States has not placed any limitations on US-India charter operations.
    • Air India’s repatriation flights have gone beyond the purpose “at least on the India to the US segments”, and have involved sales to any member of the general public able to enter the US.

What is the action being taken by the US?

  • US DOT has determined that this situation calls for close scrutiny, on a case-by-case basis, of Air India passenger charter operations.
  • The US has ordered that prior approval be sought for all Air India repatriation flights, which will enable the US government to exercise that scrutiny.

India’s response

  • India has said that in addition to facilitating the Vande Bharat Mission, it has granted permission to around 870 chartered flights, transporting around 2 lakh passengers, both inbound & outbound.

The freedoms of air in civil aviation

  • They pertain to a set of rights accorded to a country’s airlines to enter or land in another country’s airspace or airports.
  • According to the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) 
    • There are nine freedoms of the air. 
    • These rights generally operate on a bilaterally reciprocal basis. 
    • But, in certain cases, some restrictions are imposed on capacity allowed from one country to another.

Source: ICAO


Vande Bharat Mission

  • Under this mission, the government will be facilitating the return of Indian nationals stranded abroad on compelling grounds in a phased manner.
  • The Mission will see the operation of 64 flights to bring back around 15,000 Indian nationals stranded abroad amid the Covid-19 lockdown. 
  • Once completed, it may turn out to be the largest evacuation operation ever since the 1990 airlift of 1.7 lakh people from Kuwait.


The International Civil Aviation Organization(ICAO)

  • It is a UN specialized agency.
  • It was established by the States in 1944 to manage the administration and governance of the Convention on International Civil Aviation (Chicago Convention).
  • It works with the Convention’s 193 Member States and industry groups to reach consensus on international civil aviation Standards and Recommended Practices (SARPs) and policies in support of a safe, efficient, secure, economically sustainable, and environmentally responsible civil aviation sector.

Image Source: IE