Amid demands for liberalised international flying norms, Civil Aviation Minister Ashok Gajapathi Raju today asked domestic carriers to properly utilise the existing bilateral agreements with various countries.
Sending out a strong message, he said domestic airlines, both public and private ones, need to “pull up their socks” with regard to utilisation of bilaterals.
“As far as I know, India has lot of unused bilaterals and so just Indian players need to pull up their socks… Of course, foreign carriers are going to ask for more bilaterals,” Raju said at an event here.
His remarks came in response to queries about proposals for bilateral aviation agreements with more countries.
A bilateral transport pact or air services agreement, allows flight services between two countries.
“A solution is that Indian players start using Indian bilaterals… Almost all the private airlines are also sitting on bilaterals. So, I guess this problem has to be addressed,” Raju noted.
The Minister said he has been requesting airlines to use the bilaterals because if they don’t, then India loses out.
Gulf countries have been seeking more bilaterals, he said.
He also rued that domestic carriers were “lukewarm” to the objective of keeping the country connected and were not flying to difficult terrains.
“India is a big country and we have difficult terrains. Airlines are reluctant to go to several parts of the country. They will go where the money comes. The social objective of keeping India connected, I think they are pretty lukewarm to that.
“So as long as that impression goes around, you won’t find the Minister willing to sacrifice regional connectivity… I would think that if that confidence you (airlines) can give, we can go a long way,” Raju said.