India’s airlines face a safety audit by US aviation authorities to determine whether they can expand services to the country.
The US Federal Aviation Authority downgraded all India’s airlines to Category 2 safety level earlier this year, meaning they cannot operate new flights to the US or start codeshares with US airlines. One factor that led to the decision was the lack of qualified flight operations inspectors in the country. The move prompted India’s equivalent, the Directorate General of Civil Aviation, to kick-start a mandatory safety audit for all Indian carriers.
Heading the list are Air India and Jet Airways, which already have US services but are not permitted new routes. They will be followed by all of India’s domestic airlines. The procedure will include a proving flight – normally only demanded of new airlines – and an examination of manuals. One exception will be Air Asia India, a subsidiary of Malaysia’s Air Asia, which has already been given the all-clear.
The FAA inspections are likely to be carried out in December. If airlines are given the okay, it will enable mainline carriers to expand services to new destinations and agree codeshares in North America. These should provide a more profitable option than launching new routes in the overcrowded Indian domestic market.
India is currently the world’s ninth largest aviation market, according to IATA, but is set to take Britain’s third place within 15 years behind China and the US.