New Delhi : In a first-ever move that would adversely affect flight operations to the US, the American regulator, the Federal Aviation Administration, on Friday downgraded India’s aviation safety ranking, bringing it below Pakistan and at par with countries like Ghana, Barbados and Bangladesh.
India termed as “very disappointing and surprising” the FAA’s decision to downgrade India from Category I to II after two safety audits carried out in September and December last year. Air passengers to and from the US may have to face the brunt as Indian airplanes would have to go through more engineering and other safety checks on American soil.
The downgrade means that the Directorate General of Civil Aviation does not meet the safety standards set by the International Civil Aviation Organisation. It would effectively bar Air India and Jet Airways from increasing flights to the US from the current level. They would also not be able to enter into any new code-share relationships with any US airline. The downgrade does not mean that these airlines are unsafe but show that the DGCA’s safety oversight is not enough to properly monitor safety performance of Indian carriers, officials explained.
While the move may not immediately impact the 28-a-week flights (21 of Air India and 7 of Jet Airways) to the US, it would make it difficult for these two Indian carriers to expand their operations to other American cities. At present, Air India operates to Chicago and New York while Jet Airways flies only to New York.
At a press conference here, the Civil Aviation Minister refused to give a timeline by which the FAA could revert India’s position to the top category but said all the corrective steps suggested by it would be implemented by March.
Asked whether the US regulator’s decision was part of the diplomatic face-off between the two countries over the issue concerning Indian diplomat Devyani Khobragade, Singh said, “I don’t believe this. There is no connection between the two.”