India Eyes Enhanced Air Connectivity with Seychelles and South Korea

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India’s Ministry of Civil Aviation (MoCA) is currently engaging with Seychelles and South Korea to revise existing bilateral air service agreements (BASA). This follows recent revisions with countries like the United Kingdom and Thailand, reflecting India's ongoing efforts to bolster international air connectivity.

Bilateral air service agreements allow airlines from two countries to operate flights between them, stipulating the number of permissible seats and points of call (POC). The upcoming revisions with Seychelles and South Korea could introduce new elements such as codeshare permissions and increased freighter rights, enhancing operational flexibility for airlines.

Currently, Air India and Korean Air are the only carriers operating between India and South Korea's capital, Seoul. Air India offers four weekly flights using Boeing 787s, while Korean Air provides three weekly services with Boeing 777-200s. While Air India is a Star Alliance member, Korean Air is part of the SkyTeam Alliance.

For Seychelles, Air Seychelles is the sole operator, connecting Mumbai and Victoria with a weekly service. However, with IndiGo set to receive its first Airbus A321XLR in the upcoming year, there is potential for new non-stop routes between India and Seoul, expanding connectivity options.

The Indian Government’s strategy aims to transform Indian airports into major hubs, facilitating seamless transfers for both domestic and international passengers to key global destinations. Additionally, the government seeks to enable domestic airlines to increase their share of international passenger traffic.

Recent Revisions with the UK and Thailand

India recently amended its bilateral air service agreements with the United Kingdom and Thailand. The agreement with Thailand now permits 14,000 weekly seats in each direction, a significant increase from the previous total of 32,000 weekly seats. This increment will be phased, with 7,000 seats added in each phase, contingent on 80% utilization of the first phase's entitlement. Seats previously allocated to the defunct GoFirst airline have been redistributed among Indian carriers, marking a 43% rise in available seats under the bilateral agreement.

Similarly, the agreement with the United Kingdom has been expanded. Airlines can now operate 70 weekly flights from Heathrow to Delhi and Mumbai, up from the previous 56. British Airways and Virgin Atlantic have already maximized their renewed quotas, with British Airways adding a third Delhi service in summer 2025 and Virgin Atlantic planning a second Mumbai service in the upcoming winter.

Addressing Discontent Among Other Carriers

While the Indian government is actively revising agreements with some countries, it faces discontent from others, notably Emirates and Turkish Airlines, which seek to expand their services to Indian cities. Turkish Airlines, in particular, has expressed interest in adding flights between Antalya and India. However, India has restricted the expansion of bilateral rights for these hub airlines, aiming to prioritize the development of its domestic carriers and airports as international traffic hubs.

Conclusion: Strategic Expansion of Bilateral Agreements

India's ongoing negotiations with Seychelles and South Korea for revised bilateral agreements are part of a broader strategy to enhance international air connectivity and transform Indian airports into major global hubs. With recent successful revisions with the UK and Thailand, and potential new routes from carriers like IndiGo, India is poised to significantly improve its aviation landscape.

What are your thoughts on the expansion of bilateral agreements with Seychelles and South Korea? Share your views in the comments section.

 

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