Jet Airways and Air India to benefit as US FAA restores India to category 1

The United States Federal Aviation Administration has restored Indian civil aviation back to Category 1 status in its IASA (international aviation safety assessment) program. This information was conveyed to Director General Ms. M. Sathiyavathy by Associate Administrator Ms. Margaret Gillian in a letter earlier today. India was relegated to category 2, implying unsafe, on January 31, 2014.

Since then the Indian civil aviation regulator the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) has been making significant steps to address the concerns which primarily focussed around its lack of technical staff and procedures.

Letter from FAA to DGCA announcing upgrade to Category 1.
Letter from FAA to DGCA announcing upgrade to Category 1.

The return to Category 1 will have an immediate reversal of the actions that took place when India was downgraded in January 2014. From our analysis at the time [bsu_quote cite=”Bangalore Aviation analysis” url=””]The downgrade has a major impact on India’s airlines, who will not be allowed to launch any new services to the United States (despite the open skies bilateral relationship between the two nations). Existing services (such as Air India’s nonstop flights between Mumbai and Newark) will continue, but are now subject to “heightened FAA surveillance” within the United States. Furthermore, existing code share agreements between Indian airlines and US carriers are affected. To that effect, American full service carriers United Airlines and American Airlines have removed their code from all Jet Airways flights, though the broader code share partnership between Jet Airways and United still exists with the Jet Airways code still placed on United flights within the United States.[/bsu_quote]

Impact on Indian carriers

Indian carriers and US carriers will benefit from the return of India to category 1.

  • Indian carriers can commence new flights to the United States.
    • Jet Airways will be the biggest beneficiary. Much of its Boeing 777-300ER fleet was leased to minority stake holder and national carrier of the United Arab Emirates Etihad Airways PJSC who commenced flights to Chicago and San Francisco using the Jet Airways aircraft. These flights can now be operated by Jet from India via Abu Dhabi to these cities with Etihad placing its code share on the flights.
    • Air India can consider non-stop flights from New Delhi to San Francisco and increase utilisation of its Boeing 777-300ER fleet which has many aircraft lying unused.
    • In the longer term, Vistara has declared its intent to fly international.
  • Code shares with US airlines
    • Recently there has been a lot of excitement with US airline chiefs calling for the re-examination of the open skies agreement between the United States and the gulf states. One of the key elements is the route network of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar to many Indian cities. In comparison Delta and American Airlines have suspended their flights to India, and United operates just one daily flight each to Mumbai and New Delhi. Expect US carriers to revive these code shares with a view to improving India connectivity to better compete with the gulf majors.
    • Prior to the downgrade in January 2014, Jet Airways had extensive code share agreements with US full service carriers United Airlines and American Airlines, and Air India was not in the Star Alliance. Since then Air India has joined the alliance and has a code share agreement with Air Canada in place. Jet Airways should woo oneworld member American Airlines which can feed it traffic from Chicago and San Francisco. Air India should woo fellow Star Alliance member, United Airlines, to improve its US network from the latter’s hubs at Newark and Chicago, both existing Air India destinations, and possibly from San Francisco if Air India commences the flight. In the interim, Air India should consider a code share agreement with United ex London and ex Tokyo to offer one stop connectivity to the interior United States and the all important West Coast.

Bangalore Aviation congratulates everyone involved in the effort to improve India’s ranking.

About Devesh Agarwal

A electronics and automotive product management, marketing and branding expert, he was awarded a silver medal at the Lockheed Martin innovation competition 2010. He is ranked 6th on Mashable's list of aviation pros on Twitter and in addition to Bangalore Aviation, he has contributed to leading publications like Aviation Week, Conde Nast Traveller India, The Economic Times, and The Mint (a Wall Street Journal content partner). He remains a frequent flier and shares the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Indian aviation industry without fear or favour.

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  1. Darshan Alawani

    Air India can go for Bangalore-San Francisco and Jet can go for Bangalore-Chicago considering the demand on these routes

  2. AI fleet utilization is completely bizarre. Now that VT-ALT down in EWR and they started using VT-ALF B777-200LR in JFK route. It would be good to know the occupancy ratios with such different capacity of the planes they switch to. Saudi seems to be a high priority for AI. ET reports of few B787-9s instead of the 7 pending B787-8s. Do they think based on their stats or just go by someones speculation?

  3. I am not sure if I may sound logical, but the best thing that AI can do at the moment is to provide feed to the *alliance members at their respective hubs and let them carry the passengers to their onward destinations rather than focussing on becoming O&D carrier. Once the trust is gained, improve gradually on carrying all passengers on behalf of the members from their hubs. It would be a logical move in my opinion, but at the end it is AI. Never know what their next move is.

  4. Is Brussels still in picture for Jet? It should probably start BLR-BRU-SFO, MAA-BRU-ORD..
    something like that.. Connect US cities via Brussels like it connects Newark and Toronto. Or is Abu Dhabi a better option still?