Last week, Kalitta Air filed a response in support of the United States Department of Transportation (DOT) decision to impose reporting requirements on all Indian carriers operating their own aircraft at U.S. airports.
The DOT initially issued two orders imposing reporting requirements on all Indian carriers operating their own aircraft at U.S. airports. The decision was in reaction to India’s prohibition on U.S. carriers to exercise their bilateral right to perform their own ground handling at Indian airports under an “Open Skies Agreement” between the countries.
In its response to the orders issued by the U.S. DOT, Kalitta Air said that it supports the DOT’s findings and proposed actions. The carrier submitted that the government of India’s action is a violation of the U.S.-India bilateral agreement to allow carriers the flexibility to combine different flight numbers within one aircraft operation in the same way it violates U.S. carriers’ self-handling operations. Kalitta said India has also violated rights to transfer traffic from any of its aircraft to any of its other aircraft at any point on the routes in emergency situations, as well as right to change of gauge – that is, a change in the type or number of aircraft operated by an airline on a route. The government-imposed “burden” shows the same unwillingness to honor the rights of carriers as seen in the self-handling ban, according to Kalitta Air.
The Indian government has restricted U.S. carriers’ handling operations at Indian airports since 2016. In 2017, the Indian government required FedEx to contract with an Indian ground handling company in order to continue its operations. Since then, the DOT said that India has failed to resolve U.S. government concerns that these restrictions are inconsistent with the agreement between the two countries. FedEx is currently the only U.S. carrier intending to self-handle in India and is the only U.S. carrier directly affected by ground handling restrictions in India.
Kalitta Air currently operates ten weekly scheduled all-cargo flights into New Delhi (DEL) – from airports including Leipzig (LEJ) and Hong Kong (HKG) – on behalf of DHL. Kalitta said it has not experienced issues regarding ground handling, as it contracts for these services at DEL. However, it said it has experienced great difficulty in bringing in relief flights when it has experienced an “AOG” (aircraft on the ground) situation at DEL, as happened twice in 2017.
On both occasions, Kalitta attempted to divert another aircraft to pick up cargo from the stranded aircraft and continue the flight via substitute aircraft. However, the Indian government would not permit the relief flight to operate, stating that it regarded this to be a change in schedule, which would require formal permission with a lead time of three working days, according to the carrier.
Kalitta Air said that it hopes the DOT will be able to secure a formal pledge from India that it will respect the needs of U.S. carriers to exercise their rights on an emergency basis to prevent delay of a cargo shipment, or that India will amend its regulations to provide for emergency substitute of aircraft without the need to amend the carrier’s schedule.
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