Gujarat: Surat Declared International Airport; Why Does Flights Still Remain Grounded?

Gujarat: Surat Declared International Airport; Why Does Flights Still Remain Grounded?

Despite the official upgrade, international flights remain grounded due to the Indian government's limitations on "point of call" permissions and reluctance to revise existing bilateral agreements.

Melvyn ThomasUpdated: Wednesday, January 31, 2024, 10:08 PM IST
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While the recent declaration of Surat Airport as an "International Airport" has sparked excitement in the city, the reality behind the title paints a slightly different picture. Despite the official upgrade, international flights remain grounded due to the Indian government's limitations on "point of call" permissions and reluctance to revise existing bilateral agreements.

As per the Ministry of Civil Aviation's gazette notification, Surat Airport formally received international status on January 30, 2024. However, this upgrade currently translates only to the existing Air India Express flights connecting Surat to Sharjah and Dubai.

Reason for limited international connectivity

The reason for the limited international connectivity lies in the government's policy of not granting "point of call" permissions to non-metro cities like Surat. This policy dictates that foreign airlines cannot use Surat as a stopover point on their journeys to other destinations, significantly reducing their incentive to operate flights here.

Furthermore, revising existing bilateral agreements, which govern flight operations between countries, also poses a challenge. The government currently shows no inclination to modify these agreements to accommodate Surat's newfound international status. This rigidity further restricts the entry of foreign airlines into the city's airspace.

Despite these limitations, there are some positive developments. IndiGo has announced direct flights from Surat to Dubai starting February 23rd, 2024, offering improved connectivity within the limited international scope. However, the absence of foreign airlines restricts options and potentially hinders the airport's full potential as a global hub.

“The international declaration signifies Surat's growing importance as a commercial and trade centre” said an airport activist. “However, unlocking its true potential as an international gateway hinges on the government's willingness to revisit its "point of call" policy and consider revisions to bilateral agreements.”

“Until then, Surat's international operations will remain tethered to domestic carriers and existing connections, leaving the true spirit of its "international" status yet to take flight.IndiGo and the Air India Express.” He added.

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